A US defence contractor L3Harris is in talks to purchas Pegasus, developed by the Israeli NSO Group, in a move that would give an American company control over one of the most sophisticated, controversial and coveted hacking tools available today.
The discussions were still in the preliminary stages and there were large hurdles to clear before a deal could be agreed upon. Any potential agreement would require the approval of both the US and Israeli authorities, who have not signalled support for it.
NSO is at the heart of a global hacking scandal, as researchers say its Pegasus software has been used by a number of governments around the world to target political dissidents, journalists and activists.
Governments such as Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have been accused of using the spyware.
The spyware had also been used to target world leaders, with French President Emmanuel Macron’s phone having been compromised.
Once deployed, a user of Pegasus spyware can take complete control of a person’s phone – accessing messages, intercepting phone calls and using the phone as a remote listening device.
Any takeover of the sophisticated hacking tool would add to L3Harris’s current suite of surveillance technologies, which have already been sold to US government and law enforcement clients. The company reports about $18bn in annual sales, including to the FBI and Nato.