© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group is seen at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel July 22, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. defence contractor L3Harris is in talks to buy Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, U.S. and Israeli media reported, citing sources with knowledge of the deal.
The deal is yet to be finalised and needs to be approved by Israel, the U.S. and L3Harris’ board of directors, according to the joint report by Haaretz, The Washington Post and The Guardian, and confirms parts of a report published in Intelligence Online this week.
It noted that The White House is concerned that any deal with to buy the Israeli firm’s hacking tools would raise serious counterintelligence and security concerns.
NSO declined to comment on the reports.
The surveillance firm, which makes the Pegasus software, has been in the spotlight after revelations its tools had been used by governments and other agencies to spy on people’s cellphones. NSO has said its technology helps catch criminals.
NSO lost many of its existing customers when the U.S. Commerce Department in November banned the company.
The reports said that if approved, the deal could see NSO removed from the banned list – either directly, or by having its assets bought by L3Harris, which will only work with the United States and its allies.
In January, NSO had told Reuters it was in talks with a number of U.S. funds over “various financial moves”, confirming media reports that it was discussing a sale of its assets.
Apple (NASDAQ:) is among those to have sued NSO, saying it violated U.S. laws by breaking into the software installed on iPhones.
Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:), Facebook (NASDAQ:) parent Meta Platforms Inc, Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:) Inc and Cisco Systems Inc (NASDAQ:) have also criticised NSO or taken legal action.