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Pegasus Spyware: Undeterred NSO Group Says Criticisms 'Hypocritical', Blacklisting by US will be Rescinded

Jerusalem: Israel's embattled cyber tech company NSO has denied wrongdoing as it called criticism of its sale of Pegasus spyware to non-democratic countries "hypocritical," comparing the surveillance technology to military weapons systems being sold by others, amid mounting allegations that the software was misused globally, including in Israel.

An undeterred Chief Executive Officer of NSO Group, Shalev Hulio, in an interview to Israeli Channel 12 on Saturday, strongly defended the company's operations, though he also conceded that some "mistakes" may have happened over the years.

Hulio's interview came a day after a New York Times report on Friday claimed that India bought Pegasus spyware as part of a USD 2 billion defence deal with Israel in 2017, triggering a major controversy with the Opposition alleging that the government indulged in illegal snooping that amounted to "treason".

"There is not one country we've sold to, not one, that the US does not sell to, or that Israel doesn't sell to. So, it's a bit hypocritical to say it's okay to sell F-35s and tanks and drones, but it's not okay to sell a tool that collects intelligence," Hulio said, defending the company's position.

He also pointed out that out of almost 90 clients that turned to them for the technology, they sold only to around 40 as per laid down norms.

In reaction to the blacklisting of the company by the US Department of Commerce in November, the company's senior most executive called it an "outrage" that he hopes will be lifted soon.

Israel distanced itself from the controversy triggered by the blacklisting of the NSO Group after allegations of illegal use of its Pegasus spyware to target government officials, activists and journalists globally, saying it is a private company and it has nothing to do with the policies of the Israeli government.

In India, a row had erupted last year over Pegasus allegedly being used for targeted surveillance. An international investigative consortium had claimed that many ministers, politicians, activists, businessmen and journalists were potentially targeted by the software.

The Indian government, however, had dismissed allegations of any kind of surveillance on its part on specific people.

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