The US company wanted to buy the controversial Pegasus spyware maker

A group of high-level L3Harris employees reportedly traveled to Israel undercover in recent months. The New York Times† L3Harris supplies military equipment to the US Department of Defense and is already active in cyber espionage. L3Harris discussed the acquisition with NSO Group even though the company was blacklisted by the US government.

NSO is controversial because of the spyware Pegasus, which allows smartphones to go undetected and then eavesdrop on mass. With Pegasus, politicians, activists and journalists have been spied on. In doing so, according to President Biden’s administration, the NSO “acted against US national security and foreign policy”.

‘White House clueless, angry’

Despite that negative feeling, there was still potential, L3Harris would have argued. The company said it is supported by several U.S. security agencies, under various conditions. For example, the NSO should be allowed to sell its arsenal of vulnerabilities to the intelligence community, Five Eyes. Besides the US, these are Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The Israeli Defense Ministry was open to that condition, but resisted sharing Pegasus’ source code.

Talks ended last month at the White House. The US government is said to be “furious” at the talks. Any attempt by the US defense agency to acquire the blacklisted company would face “tremendous resistance”.

A few days later, L3Harris reported to the White House that negotiations with NSO Group had broken down. Both companies declined to comment for this report. US intelligence services have not said whether they were actually behind the takeover. Israel also declined to comment.

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Pegasus has been criticized over the years

Pegasus has been controversial for years. Maker NSO Group intentionally hides serious leaks on systems like Android and iOS and apps like WhatsApp. Those leaks allow Pegasus to break in undetected. However, every user is at risk because exploited vulnerabilities are unknown and thus cannot be patched.

Both WhatsApp and Apple have already sued NSO Group. Both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have launched investigations into Pegasus. Member of Parliament Peter Omtzigt is involved in the Council of Europe’s investigation.

Apple Extra Safe Mode

Apple will release a new Lockdown Mode feature later this year that will protect some users from being infected by spyware like the NSO Group.

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