A whistleblower says the infamous Israeli spyware firm NSO Group offered a US-based mobile security company “bags of cash” in exchange for access to global cellular networks.
In his confidential disclosure to the US Department of Justice, Gary Miller, a mobile phone security expert, alleged that NSO made the offer during a call with his then-employer, Mobileum, an American company that provides security services to cell companies, according to media reports on Tuesday.
He said that in 2017, when he was a Mobileum vice president, he was asked to lead a web voice call attended by NSO executives Shalev Hulio and Omri Lavie.
NSO, Miller added, was interested in learning more about Mobileum’s access to hundreds of mobile networks around the world, and its executives wanted to discuss how gaining such access would allow the Israeli firm to “enhance the capabilities of their surveillance software.”
“They stated explicitly that their product was designed for surveillance and it was designed to surveil not the good guys but the bad guys,” he said.
“They stated multiple times that their work was authorized by government agencies. They didn’t get in the details of who those government agencies were,” he added.
Miller also noted that during the call, a member of his own company’s leadership asked what NSO believed the “business model” was of working with Mobileum.
The response made by Lavie was “we drop bags of cash at your office” and the meeting ended soon thereafter, he further said.
Mobileum chief executive Bobby Srinivasan denied the revelation, saying, "Mobileum does not have - and has never had - any business relationship with NSO Group."
Last year, Miller shared his account with US Congressman Ted Lieu, who said, "Having such access would allow the NSO to spy on vast numbers of cellphones in the United States and foreign countries."
NSO's activities appear "really fishy, and it doesn’t smell right, and that’s why I want the Department of Justice to investigate,” she emphasized.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that the US Department Justice is conducting a criminal investigation into NSO over allegations that its clients have illegally hacked phones, citing four people familiar with the probe.
A recent investigative report by the New York Times stated that NSO's Pegasus software was used by the Israeli regime as a core part of its diplomatic policy.
NSO has been involved in numerous scandals over the past years amid reports that Pegasus malware has been used to target political dissidents, activists and journalists across the globe.