CyberMiddle EastWar

Israel Taps Blacklisted Cyber Firms to Track Hostages in Gaza: Report

Israel is tapping the services of two controversial cyber companies to help track Hamas hostages in the Gaza Strip, according to a report by Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter.

NSO Group and Candiru, both blacklisted by the US for engaging in malicious cyber activities, are being asked to quickly upgrade their spyware capabilities to meet the emerging needs of Jerusalem’s security forces.

They are reportedly collaborating on the request and have pledged to provide their services for free, said four unnamed cybersecurity industry sources and an Israeli government official.

In a statement sent to the outlet on Thursday, Candiru expressed willingness and readiness to assist the government in its war efforts “in any way needed.”

However, it did not elaborate on the alleged agreement with Israel.

Gaza Hostages

Since Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, more than 220 people have been held hostage, including 54 Thai nationals.

Most of them are believed to be farm workers working in the agricultural communities where the Palestinian militant group first attacked.

The Israeli government has reportedly been researching ways to rescue the hostages, tapping other entities for intelligence and expertise in extracting people from dangerous locations.

The country also distributed leaflets in Gaza that said a reward would be given for any valuable hostage information.

Palestinians Gaza
Palestinians evacuate following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP


In 2021, the US Department of Commerce added Israeli firms NSO Group and Candiru to its blacklist for allegedly developing and supplying spyware used to target government officials, journalists, and embassy workers.

“These tools have also enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists and activists outside of their sovereign borders to silence dissent,” Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said.

She added that the actions of the Israeli cyber firms threaten the rules-based international order.

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