Halloween is the latest weapon in Israel’s Silicon Valley cold war. Israeli government officials are suing the NSO Group in a Jerusalem court, alleging the spyware maker profited from spying by denying payments to victims.
The NSO Group’s list of alleged customers include movie studios, the firm’s Israeli business partner Giora Eiland is listed as a defendant in the suit, and in August, the chief executive of the company, Rafael Yaron, tweeted his belief that the U.S. President was spying on the firm’s Israeli employees. As a result, Yaron believed the firm’s international customers had been spied on and suffered “threats” from hostile organizations such as the Syrian government, the Russian government, and governments in Africa.
The suit says that NSO Group frequently refused to provide funds to victims of the organization’s equipment.
“As they destroy the enemies of Israel, these thieves will never get rich!” Eiland said in an interview with the WSJ, responding to the suit.
The suit, according to the Times of Israel, highlights the troubled relationships between Israeli officials and spyware companies, which have been on the state’s radar for years. In 2013, the Israeli government raided spyware researchers at InfoSec and shut down its operations. Later, Eiland admitted he joined an MSADA contract to help the state set up systems to wiretap citizens. Eiland is not named in the suit.
Documents relating to the stolen identities of Israeli officials, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s phone number, are published regularly on hacker forums. The intercepted data from foreign criminals, including Italian mobsters and Iran, are regularly exchanged online. The NSO Group did not respond to a request for comment.
The two countries’ ties are not new. In 2012, it was revealed that Motorola gave the Israeli Defense Ministry its malware, Project Honami, to spy on Palestinian activists. The department then began paying the owners of the malware to infiltrate activist groups, using “Android Trojan” Trojans. In the same year, the AP reported that the French intelligence service and the American National Security Agency worked together to snoop on the activists it was targeting. It was alleged that the NSA had requested assistance to wiretap activists from Israel and Egypt.
Cooperation between governments has also been reported in the tech industry. Last year, it was revealed that Google had collaborated with the Israeli government.