Who is profiting off the NSO Pegasus spyware affair?

The NSO affair has shaken up public opinion and the political system, but there are also big gainers.

An aerial view shows 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)
An aerial view shows 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)

The NSO Pegasus spyware affair is shaking up the police, legal and political system, but there are those who are a little less bothered, or even happy.

HY Group, an importer of Nokia to Israel, reports a 200% increase in the purchase of older generation phones: Those that do not connect to the Internet, do not allow browsing and don't have messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram and others.

According to data provided to Walla by HY Group, over the past three days, over 4,000 old-generation Nokia units were purchased. In a normal week, between 1,000 and 2,000 devices are usually sold.

How much do old Nokia phones cost?

If you want to get the simplest "dumb" phone available, which only includes the option to receive and make calls and send and receive SMS messages, you will have to part with about NIS 100.

A slightly more sophisticated phone that includes games and video, even without the Internet, still costs NIS 270, but that's barely 10% of the price of an average smartphone.

Close up of a man using mobile smart phone (credit: INGIMAGE)Close up of a man using mobile smart phone (credit: INGIMAGE)

'Inventory is dwindling'

For many of us, the name Nokia was almost synonymous with small – when the popular 5100 and 6200 models were first marketed – and reliable cell phones.

But being late to the touchscreen revolution left the Finnish manufacturer for the most part in the past, while the market was occupied by Apple, Samsung and Chinese manufacturers.

Nokia continued to be a strong brand mainly among the ultra-Orthodox population in Israel, but also among those who feared wiretapping long before the current NSO affair. It's not that these dumb phones are immune to tapping, but eavesdropping on them is much more complicated than on smartphones. What's more, they store far less information.

Liav Ron, manager of the Nokia brand in H.Y. Group, told Walla that "there is a meteoric increase in the sale of old-generation phones called 'feature phones.' These are simple 'send and end' phones which have seen a crazy increase in sales. It came out of nowhere."

By how much did sales increase in percentage?

"We more than doubled the normal sales rate during a normal business week," said Ron.

Where do people buy the most Nokia phones?

"Most of the sales are concentrated between Hadera and Gadera," Ron explained. "It's not just cities where there is a large Haredi population. Actually, among the ultra-Orthodox community in particular, sales state quite normal."

How safe is it to buy a dumb phone? What guarantees me that they will not hack these devices, too?

"Only hackers and law enforcement can answer this question, but all in all, the old generation feature-phone that is not a smartphone does not have content like Facebook and Instagram, so already there is not much content that can be taken from the device," he said. "You can buy simple phones that have WhatsApp, but on most devices, it is just messages and calls."

Are we going to see a shortage of dumb phones?

"If I had more old generation phones in stock I would sell a lot more," Ron concluded. "We can order in advance from the overseas supplier but I cannot predict what will happen next. I can say that the stock is shrinking and I am in talks with the supplier abroad."