Cyberweapon Developers Are Ingratiating Themselves With U.S. Officials

Thomas Brewster, Forbes, 2021:

Paragon Solutions doesn’t have a website. There’s very little information at all about them online, even if the Tel Aviv-based smartphone surveillance startup’s employees are all over LinkedIn, more than 50 of them. That’s not a bad headcount for a company that’s still in stealth mode.


With an American backer, it appears Paragon is going to try and crack American law enforcement agencies where others like NSO have failed. According to a LinkedIn profile, a 30-year veteran of Israeli intelligence, Menachem Pakman, has been employed to help find business in the U.S. There’s no indication that they have clients across the Atlantic yet, however.

Mehul Srivastava and Kaye Wiggins, Financial Times:

The Israeli start-up had watched local rival NSO Group, makers of the controversial Pegasus spyware, fall foul of the Biden administration and be blacklisted in the US. So Paragon sought guidance from top American advisers, secured funding from US venture capital groups and eventually scored a marquee client that eludes its competition: the US government.


President Joe Biden signed an executive order in March barring any US agency from purchasing spyware that “poses risks to national security or has been misused by foreign actors to enable human rights abuses around the world.”

The wording of the executive order is seen by experts as targeting NSO, while carving out a space for companies like Paragon to continue selling similar spyware, but only to the closest of US allies. The American expectation — still unproven — is that friendly nations are less likely to abuse such a weapon on civil society, or to spy on US government officials deployed abroad.

According to a New York Times report last month, the U.S. government is very much a client of NSO Group. It seems the Biden administration’s policies are neither motivated by a moral objection to an unregulated spyware market, nor heeded by U.S. officials, making Paragon’s more cautious on-side approach look a little unnecessary. These are scuzzy companies no matter how careful their public relations teams frame them.