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Israeli firm accused of selling classified spy technology

Shadowy tech firm NFV Systems investigated by defence ministry over allegations of violating export law
High-tech company workers on strike in Tel Aviv on 24 January 2023 (AFP)

An Israeli firm has been accused of illegally selling classified spy technology, following an investigation by the country's Defence Ministry.

According to documents obtained by Haaretz, tech company NFV Systems is suspected of exporting sensitive technologies, including to a number of Gulf states.

“On a number of occasions the company has marketed and exported a cybertechnology product that is under regulation to a number of countries,” the Defence Ministry said, according to the Israeli newspaper.

“This was done illegally and without obtaining the requisite Defence Ministry license.”

The statement from the Defence Ministry said they were also looking into suspicions that the company benefited from fraud and violated customs regulations.

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Israel has faced repeated criticism and diplomatic pressure over spyware and other cyber weapons being developed in the country.

It is claimed they are being used to undermine democracy and human rights around the world. 

The Israel-based NSO Group faced legal action following allegations that its military-grade spyware Pegasus has been misused by governments and other agencies to hack the mobile phones of activists and senior politicians in several countries.

However, unlike NSO Group and other high-profile Israeli tech companies, NFV Systems has no website and its name had not been published prior to Haaretz's reporting.

Documents from 2017 obtained by Haaretz show NFV Systems boasting that their tech was able to pinpoint a person’s geographical location in real-time by tracking their mobile phone's SIM card using cellular networks, as well as issue an alert when a target person enters or leaves a country or region designated in advance.

Following reporting on the companies' activities, in November 2021 the US Department of Commerce placed Israeli firms NSO Group and Candiru on its blacklist.

Since then, the Israeli state has reportedly stepped up its oversight of tech companies and limited the countries they can export to.

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