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India Seeks Alternatives to NSO Group Spyware Amid Global Snooping Scandals

Illustration: PX Media / Adobe Stock

The Indian government is seeking to acquire new spyware in an effort to replace the controversial Pegasus system, which has been blacklisted by the US government. India has never publicly acknowledged being a customer of the Israeli company NSO, however, the company’s malware has been found on the phones of journalists, academics and opposition leaders around India.

Those familiar with Indian deliberations have indicated that officials have shown interest in various competitors, many of which have been developed by firms in Israel, “home to the most advanced spyware companies with strong links to the country’s military,” according to a report in the Financial Times.

The US government is attempting to clamp down on the $12 billion industry of commercial spyware, believing it to be an ever-increasing threat to its national security. US President Joe Biden issued an executive order this week targeting manufacturers tied to abuses in other countries, with the aim of squeezing them out of the US market.

India’s move shows that the demand for this technology remains strong despite the increasing evidence of governments worldwide abusing it. The Indian government is concerned about the PR problem caused by the ability of human rights groups to forensically trace Pegasus, as well as warnings from Apple and WhatsApp to those who have been targeted. 

According to the reports, those familiar with Indian deliberations said officials were considering companies such as Intellexa, Quadream and Cognyte, all of which have been built by Israeli companies with strong links to the country’s military. These companies are seeking to replace the NSO Group, which had previously been considered a pioneer in the field.

It is expected that the bidding process will attract rival spyware firms from countries such as Australia, Italy, France, Belarus, Cyprus, the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. NSO Group has said that it remains profitable and cash positive due to its contracts with allies to the US and Israel.

By CircleID Reporter

CircleID’s internal staff reporting on news tips and developing stories. Do you have information the professional Internet community should be aware of? Contact us.

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