NSO rival Quadream in talks with Moroccan gov't

Cybersecurity Photo: Shutterstock ASAP Creative
Cybersecurity Photo: Shutterstock ASAP Creative

Israeli company Quadream's mobile phone hacking products do not require an Israeli Defense Ministry export license because its parent company is based in Cyprus.

The biggest winners from the international investigation of Israeli cyberattack company NSO have been its rivals. One of them is Quadream, which has its development center in Ramat Gan, and sells products thorugh its Cyprus-based parent company. A source close to the matter has told "Globes" that Quadream representatives last week visited the offices of the Moroccan security services in order to discuss selling its surveillance systems to the Moroccan government.

According to the international investigative report published last month by a team of 80 journalists from 17 media organizations in 10 countries led by Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, NSO sold its Pegasus spyware to governments worldwide, which used it for spying not only on criminals and terrorists but also on journalists, human rights activists and political leaders around the world, including French President Emmanuel Macron.

The talks between Quadream and Morocco have advanced in the past few weeks and an additional meeting has been set. Morocco and NSO have never admitted any cooperation. But now Morocco might be able to use Quadream's surveillance systems, which will allow the country more flexibility than NSO's systems, which are subject to Israeli defense export agreements and restricted in their ability to comply with all customer requirements.

Quadream develops cyberattack systems with capabilities similar to NSO's products, by allowing security services to hack into mobile phones and computers. The company has developed a product that allows the authorities to install spyware by sending a link or photo to the phone of its target, which is activated when the suspect presses on it. Like NSO, Quadream has developed the ability to install the spyware without contact with the suspect and has been marketing its products recently. Quadream's system is substantially cheaper than NSO's and is not subject to regulatory control by Israel's Ministry of Defense.

Morocco has never admitted to using NSO's Pegasus but over the years investigations have been published allegedly exposing its use against critical journalists. One of the affairs revealed by last month's Amnesty investigation not only caused a dispute between Israel and Morocco but also caused a diplomatic crisis between Morocco and France. French President Emmanuel Macron was forced to change his mobile telephone number and his electronic signature after reports in French newspaper Le Monde that the Morocco security services had used Pegasus to track him.

Morocco denied the allegations and has even filed a defamation suit in France and Germany against Amnesty and Forbidden Stories, who made the claims. The court hearing in Paris is set to begin in October. Investigations by Israel's Ministry of Defense did not draw any conclusions regarding the breach of Macron's and other ministers phones.

Quadream maintains maximum secrecy. The company has no website and employees do not mention on their social media accounts that they work there. On LinkedIn, Quadream's employees write that they are employed by a cybersecurity company. One of the reasons for the secrecy is the fact that Quadream, even though its development center is in Israel, is not subject to Israel's defense export laws.

Instead of selling its products from Israel, as do NSO and 15 other cyberattack companies, Quadream operates in collaboration with a Cypriot sales company called InReach. According to the registrar of companies, InReach owns the shares in Israeli company Quadream. InReach is managed by Roy Gelsenberg and owned by Christos Shiakallis, and Nenad Grozdanic. Quadream and InReach have a legal dispute that has been conducted in the Limassol court since 2020. According to the Intelligence Online website, Quadream and InReach had an agreement from 2017, whereby Inreach would pay Quadream 92% of its revenue from cyberattack technological exports. But in 2019, InReach halted payments to Quadream and it was recently discovered that one of InReach's senior executives even opened a Swiss bank account and transferred to it some of the revenue from the joint activities, Intelligence Online reported.

So while its sales office operates from Cyprus, Quadream can benefit from hiring experienced Israeli engineers, on the one hand, and employ them in Ramat Gan, while on the other hand selling its products through an 'offshore' company, far from the eyes of the Ministry of Defense. Thus free of regulations, Quadream can even theoretically sell to individuals and non-government entities. In the past Quadream has sold its products to Saudi Arabia and to Ghana.

Other shareholders in the company are Ilan Dabelstein, a former senior IDF intelligence officer, Nimrod Reznik, and Guy Geva. Quadream declined to comment.

Israel's Ministry of Defense said, "The State of Israel is charged wiuth supervising everything regarding marketing and export of cyber products from Israel, according to the Supervision of Defense Exports Law 2007."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 10, 2021

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2021

Cybersecurity Photo: Shutterstock ASAP Creative
Cybersecurity Photo: Shutterstock ASAP Creative
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