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Israel bans cyber tech sales to 65 countries following NSO affair

Israel’s Defense Ministry has scaled down the list of customers for cyber tech sales to 37 from 102. Amid the dropped countries were UAE, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. 

Countries with questionable human rights have been removed, including Israel’s new allies Morocco and the UAE. Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of using Israeli spyware bought from Candiru, is also on the blocklist. Mexico shares similar accusations and consequently the blocklist as well. However, India, another country accused of using NSO tech on journalists, activists, and opposition leaders, stays on the updated list. 

The new restricted list is expected to have a heavy blow on the Israeli cyber tech industry. The reason for the change in potential customers is believed to be the international criticism the NSO Group is facing over its flagship spyware — Pegasus. 

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The clock is ticking on NSO

The NSO Group has been under heavy fire lately over its Pegasus spyware and allegations of aiding governments spy on journalists, activists, opposition leaders and whoever else they want. While NSO insists that they only sell their products to governments and law enforcement agencies to help fight crime and terrorism. 

This isn’t the first blow to NSO this month, either. Apple filed a lawsuit against NSO and its parent company OSY Technologies on Tuesday, alleging that “they permit attacks, including from sovereign governments that pay hundreds of millions of dollars to target and attack a tiny fraction of users with information of particular interest to NSO’s customers.”

Several other governments and corporations, including but not limited to Microsoft, Meta, Alphabet and Cisco, have also either openly criticised or initiated legal action against NSO. 

The United States Department of Commerce announced earlier this month that NSO was being placed on a trade blocklist under the allegation of allowing foreign governments to conduct “transnational repression.” Fellow Israeli company Candiru was also blocked. 

To make matters worse, Moody’s downgraded the company to a B3 with a negative outlook, indicating a growing risk of defaulting on their $500 million debt amid upcoming issues caused by the US blocklisting. 

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