NSO Group: Is This a Baller Play to Regain Its PR Initiative or a Fumble?

June 15, 2022

Secrecy and confidentiality are often positive characteristics in certain specialized software endeavors. One might assume that firms engaged in providing technology, engineering support, and consulting services would operate with a low profile. I like to think of my first meeting with Admiral Craig Hosmer. We each arrived at the DC Army Navy Club at 2 30 pm Eastern time. The Admiral told me where to sit. He joined me about 15 minutes later. The Club was virtually empty; the room was small but comfortable; and the one staff member was behind the bar doing what bartenders do: Polishing glasses.

Looking back on that meeting in 1974, I am quite certain no one knew I was meeting the Admiral. I have no idea where the Admiral entered the building nor did I see who drove him to the 17th Street NW location. My thought is that this type of set up for a meeting was what I would call “low profile.”

US Defence Contractor in Talks to Take Over NSO Group’s Hacking Technology” illustrates what happens when the type of every day precautions Admiral Hosmer took are ignored. A British newspaper reports:

The US defence contractor L3Harris is in talks to take over NSO Group’s surveillance technology, in a possible deal that would give an American company control over one of the world’s most sophisticated and controversial hacking tools. Multiple sources confirmed that discussions were centered on a sale of the Israeli company’s core technology – or code – as well as a possible transfer of NSO personnel to L3Harris.

Okay, so much for low profiling this type of deal.

I am not sure what “multiple sources” mean. If someone were writing about my meeting the Admiral, the only sources of information would have been me, the Admiral’s technical aide (a nuclear scientist from Argonne National Laboratory), and probably the bartender who did not approach the area in which the former chair of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy were sitting.

But what have we got?

  1. A major newspaper’s story about a company which has made specialized services as familiar as TikTok
  2. Multiple sources of information. What? Who is talking? Why?
  3. A White House “official” making a comment. Who? Why? To whom?
  4. A reference to a specialized news service called “Intelligence Online”. What was the source of this outfit’s information? Is that source high value? Why is a news service plunging into frog killing hot water?
  5. Ramblings about the need to involve government officials in at least two countries. Who are the “officials”? Why are these people identified without specifics?
  6. References to human rights advocates. Which advocates? Why?

Gentle reader, I am a dinobaby who was once a consultant to the company which made this term popular. Perhaps a return to the good old days of low-profiling certain activities is appropriate?

One thing is certain: Not even Google’s 10-thumb approach to information about its allegedly smart software can top this NSO Group PR milestone.

Stephen E Arnold, June 15, 2022


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