This article is reshared with permission from La Cartita. Originally published in that platform 12/16/2017.
La Cartita — (6/30/2017) — PEGASUS is the worlds most advanced spyware, a special type of software designed to spy on cellular phones and computers without the user’s permission. The software is most often used to target a victim’s phone camera and microphone. The audio and video are recorded and then leveraged against the victim in some way. PEGASUS is designed by the NSO Group, a team of former and current Israeli soldiers from UNIT 8200, a signals intelligence unit from the Israeli army (Israeli Defense Forces or IDF). The company was (and may still be) subsidized by the Israeli government. All of the funds that develop the Israeli’s espionage capacity is ultimately from the large military aid package provided by the US government.
Francisco Partners LP, the real owners of PEGASUS
PEGASUS was recently the subject of a highly circulated article from the NY Times detailing how the NSO Group’s software was found to have been used by the Mexican government against activist lawyers and journalists. The NY Times article was based primarily on a report from Citizen’s Lab group in Toronto. NSO Group works exclusively with governments. The first documented use of the software was against Ahmed Mansoor, a respected legal scholar who speaks out against torture.
Unfortunately, NSO Group does not operate independently of private capital. NSO Group was acquired by a private equity firm: Francisco Partners LP. The firm has several technology holdings, for instance, a software unit from Dell Computers that was spun off to Francisco Partners LP.
II. CALPERS puts 100 Million on Pegasus’ Owner; UC Regents 25 million
CALPERS funds Francisco Partners LP, owners of the NSO Group
Francisco Partners LP has two publicly listed locations that function as their corporate offices. There is 1 Letterman Drive, C Suite 410, San Francisco, California and another office in London. Their holdings are valued at 8 billion dollars. Ironically, they are increasingly in a better position to exploit commercial software since they own increasingly ubiquitous software and hardward platforms to which the NSO Group can presumably gain privileged access.
Francisco Partners LP has many government contacts. At least, one can assume this to be case with the high number of public pension funds that have invested in the company. Most notably for some of our readers, CALPERS has paid into a 100,000,000 dollars into a Francisco Partners LP fund. The following is a cursory review of the amount invested in Francisco Partners LP’s funds from US public pensions.
The Following Public Pensions Pay Into Francisco Partners LP Fund: *** How To Interpret Figures: The amount invested is to the right. The rightmost section contains the latest known investment made from the Public Pension funds to the Franscico Partners LP funds that finance company operations, e.g. capitalization, providing loan collateral, operating costs. etc.
- California Public Employees’ Retirement System USD 100,000,000 9/30/2016
Oregon Public Employees Retirement System USD 100,000,000 12/31/2016
University of Texas Investment Management Co/The USD 75,000,000 5/31/2016
California State Teachers’ Retirement System USD 75,000,000 9/30/2016
Florida Retirement System USD 75,000,000 9/30/2016
New York City Fire Pension Fund USD 75,000,000 6/30/2016
Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association USD 50,000,000 12/31/2015
School Employees Retirement System of Ohio USD 40,000,000 12/31/2016
Regents of the University of California/The USD 25,000,000 9/30/2014
West Midlands Pension Fund USD 30,008,541 3/31/2016
University of Michigan USD 20,000,000 9/17/2009
Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System USD 20,000,000 12/31/2015
Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund USD 15,000,000 6/30/2014
III. The profit model for NSO Group: Hack More, Pay Less: Realizing Scale
Documents leaked to the NY Times revealed the NSO Group’s external clients and their fee structure. The NSO group charges USD 500,000 dollars to a client state that wishes to install their software in some piece of hardware. An additional USD 650,000 dollars is assessed to intercept/hack 10 I-Phones or 10 Androids. Finally, a client may be charged USD 800,000 dollars more to hack 100 phones of any make or model. This pricing model reflects a disposition to hack more in order for a government to ‘get its money’s worth’.
IV. Government of Mexico: Ayotzinapa Hacks
The Government of Mexico – even before it had a massive fiasco in its hands with the Ayotzinapa case of 2014 – has, at least, 80 million dollars invested in projects with the NSO group since 2013. That figure could only have gone up since the EPN administration struggles to maintain power.
The Ayotzinapa case involves many dozens of lawyers and activist groups. A rough estimate from the Inter American Commission on Human Rights claims that at least 196 people were affected on the night of September 26, 2014. These people and their extended families should presume themselves to be subjects of surveillance in one shape or another because of their legal connection and right to claim restitution. At the time of writing, many of the direct family member’s of the disappeared 43 have phones that exhibit strange behavior.