NSO threatens Calcalist with defamation suit

NSO has threated Calcalist with a defamation lawsuit for its report alleging the cyber attack firm offers clients an option to delete the logos from its cyberattacks on others’ cell phones.

 A man walks past the logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel July 22, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
A man walks past the logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel July 22, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

NSO Group threatened the Calcalist business newspaper with a defamation lawsuit for a report it published on Thursday alleging that the cyberattack firm facilitates its clients by deleting logs of their operations.

What was unique about Thursday’s report was that it was directed at NSO itself and its technology. According to Calcalist, NSO offers clients an option to delete or water down the logs from its cyberattacks on cellphones.

NSO said that no such option exists, and its technology automatically creates a log of all attacks at all times in order to make it possible to conduct an operational and even legal after-the-fact probe of these hacks.

In addition, NSO said that the Calcalist report showed ignorance of the technology since it claimed that it functions via the cloud. NSO’s letter said the technology is implanted physically on-site for clients.

The letter demanded that the article be retracted within 24 hours.

 Hacker (illustrative) (credit: PXFUEL) Hacker (illustrative) (credit: PXFUEL)

As of late Thursday, the article was off the main site, but was still searchable online.

NSO did not deny that its technology has been used by the police to hack citizens’ cellphones, but said it requires the technology to be used in line with the country’s applicable laws or international human rights laws.

The letter from the cyber firm also referenced other reports from Calcalist in recent weeks on the police spying scandal as lacking evidence, but the letter was not directed at those reports. Rather, NSO said that it will rely on the police and the government to fact-check Calcalist on issues where the media outlet has attacked the police for allegedly illegally hacking into Israeli cellphones with no court order.

The state prosecution is expected to give an update on Sunday on the police cellphone-hacking scandal raised in other Calcalist reports relating to 26 persons, including some senior officials.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has so far stayed partially neutral, but also set a tone of some doubt on aspects of the Calcalist reports.

Despite its defenses, NSO has been shaken since July by scandal after scandal, including being blacklisted by the US Commerce Department for its clients allegedly violating human rights.

Multiple reports have forecast that it may become insolvent and is aggressively looking for a buyout.