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A Trojan horse made of malware infected devices at Tel Aviv University's Cyber Week conference. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

An employee of NSO Group, an Israeli contractor known for its surveillance tools, is being charged for stealing the firm's internationally renowned "Pegasus" cell phone spyware and trying to sell it on the dark web for $50 million, according to the newspaper Globes.

Why it matters: When nations lack cyber espionage tools, they turn to contractors for off-the-shelf tools. Mexico was caught spying on politicians, lawyers and journalists with Pegasus last year. Pegasus is serious stuff, giving full access to a phone for surveillance or other purposes.

The details: In February, the unnamed 38-year old employee allegedly googled how to circumvent NSO's theft detection system and downloaded Pegasus.

  • On April 29, he was fired for unrelated reasons, only eight months into his tenure.
  • In May, the defendant began to google how to sell the stolen software on the black market.
  • He then offered to sell the software on the dark web to a buyer who, ultimately, contacted NSO.

The big picture: The software is substantially more powerful and stealthy than the threats most people face every day. For obvious reasons, Israeli law limits to whom NSO can sell their products. In the hands of a criminal network or terrorist group, Pegasus could give them espionage capabilities on par with certain governments.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

Updated 6 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.