Israeli Firm Helps Governments Spy on Mobile Phones
According to the financial news website Calcalist, US-based private equity firm Blackstone is reportedly in discussions to acquire a 40% stake in NSO Group, an Israeli company set up in 2009 by two former members of the Israeli intelligence services to develop mobile device surveillance software.
Blackstone could acquire the stake from Francisco Partners, who paid $130 million for control of the company for $130 million in 2014, valuing the company at the time at $170 million. The current negotiations are said to place a putative value of close to $1 billion on the firm and could leave Francisco still holding a 40% stake.
NSO’s PEGASUS spyware was reportedly used in a futile attack on an Arab activist’s iPhone in the UAE last year, taking advantage of a previously undisclosed vulnerability in the mobile operating system, prompting Apple to boost security measures.