A US whistleblower accuses the Israeli company of making the offer during a call in 2017, the Washington Post and other media reported.
Israeli surveillance company NSO Group has offered a US mobile security firm “bags of money” to access its signaling network, the Washington Post and other outlets have reported, citing a whistleblower.
Gary Miller, a California-based former Mobileum executive, said in filings to the U.S. Department of Justice that NSO Group made the offer to the company during a conference call in 2017, the Post reported Tuesday.
The newspaper reported that Miller also shared details of the appeal with US Congressman Ted Lieu, who raised the matter with the Justice Department.
The Guardian newspaper and non-profit journalism Forbidden Storieswho are members of a media consortium investigating the NSO group known as Project Pegasus, also reported on the allegations on Tuesday.
News organizations said NSO Group was trying to gain access to a signaling network known as SS7.
“The privacy implications for Americans and the national security implications for America of NSO Group’s access to mobile carrier signaling networks are sweeping and alarming,” Lieu wrote in a letter to the Department of Health. Justice, according to The Guardian.
NSO Group denied the allegations, telling the Washington Post that the company “does not do business using cash as a form of payment.”
The Israeli company sparked outrage from rights groups last year after an international media investigation found the company’s Pegasus spyware was being used by security forces and authoritarian governments in many countries.
US President Joe Biden’s administration imposed sanctions on NSO Group in November, accusing the company of enabling “transnational repression”. But the company has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, insisting its surveillance tools are designed to track criminals and “terrorists”.
Lieu publicly confirmed its call for an investigation on Tuesday.
“NSO Group, which sells phone hacking software, attempted to gain access to cellular networks by offering ‘money bags’ according to a whistleblower. I made a criminal reference to [the Justice Department]“, he wrote on Twitter.
“And with the #SS7 security breach in cellular networks, no one’s phone is safe.”
NSO Group, which sells phone hacking software, tried to gain access to cellular networks by offering “bags of money” according to a whistleblower. I made a criminal reference to @TheJusticeDept.
And with the #SS7 security breach in cellular networks, no one’s phone is safe. https://t.co/WxlJL5yrMi
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 1, 2022
Miller, the whistleblower, now works for the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which tracks hacking and surveillance, including the activities of the NSO Group.
“The NSO Group was specifically interested in mobile networks,” Miller told The Washington Post. “They explicitly stated that their product was designed for surveillance and it was designed to monitor not the good guys but the bad guys.”
Citing unnamed sources, The Guardian and The Post reported that the Department of Justice was already investigating the NSO Group for possible illegal hacking of phones and use of computer networks.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on Tuesday afternoon.
NSO Group is facing two separate civil lawsuits in US courts against WhatsApp and Apple Inc, which accused the Israeli company of unlawfully breaching their networks.