NSO Group
NSO GroupREUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

Israel's NSO Group, which makes the controversial Pegasus spyware, announced on Sunday its CEO was leaving his post as part of a reorganization, AFP reported.

"NSO Group announced today the company will reorganize and CEO Shalev Hulio will step down," a company spokesperson said in a statement.

The firm's chief operating officer Yaron Shohat will now "take the lead" and manage the reorganization process, the spokesperson added.

The reorganization "will examine all aspects of its business, including streamlining its operations to ensure NSO remains one of the world's leading high-tech cyber intelligence companies, focusing on NATO-member countries," a reference to the 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization political and military alliance.

NSO’s Pegasus software has been linked to abuses by governments.

In February, the Finnish foreign ministry said it had detected Pegasus in several phones used by its diplomats abroad.

The Finnish announcement followed a report in The New York Times which said that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked to ensure that Saudi Arabia would be able to use the Pegasus software, around the time that the Abraham Accords were signed with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

More recently, Canada's Citizen Lab group said that at least 65 people linked to the Catalan separatist movement had been targets of the Pegasus spyware after a failed independence bid in 2017.

The US Commerce Department recently blacklisted NSO Group, prohibiting it from using American technology in its operations.

Apple sued the Israeli firm in late November, seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using Apple software, services, or devices.

NSO Group says the software is only sold to government agencies to target criminals and terrorists, and sales require Israeli government approval.

Hulio, a co-founder of the company, said in Sunday’s statement that the firm "is reorganizing to prepare for its next phase of growth."

He praised Shohat as "the right choice" and said NSO's technologies "continue to help save lives worldwide".

In the same statement, Shohat said, "NSO will ensure that the company's groundbreaking technologies are used for rightful and worthy purposes."