Former Austrian Chancellor and ex-NSO Chief Start Cybersecurity Firm

Former chief executive of the controversial Israeli spyware company NSO Group, Shalev Hulio, has partnered with Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s ex-Chancellor who was forced to resign following a corruption investigation last year, to launch the cybersecurity startup “Dream Security”.

Sebastian KurzAustria’s defamed former chancellor has teamed up with Shalev Hulio, ex-CEO of the cyber arms firm that produced the infamous Pegasus software, to launch a new Tel Aviv based firm tracking and responding to cyber anomalies. (Photo: EU2017EE, Flickr, License)Hulio stepped down in August from his post at NSO citing internal reorganization. The company is known for producing the notorious Pegasus software which some regimes have used to spy on dissidents, journalists and activists.

NSO’s clients include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Hungary and India.

NSO Group was blacklisted by the Biden administration in November 2021 for acting “contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the U.S.”

Kurz, 36, who was once the world’s youngest head of government, confirmed the venture on a Facebook post on Friday saying that “the need to protect critical infrastructure such as energy, water, and healthcare from cyber attacks is growing,” and that the novel Tel Aviv based company aims to “offer solutions to protect against such attacks.”

Another one of Dream Security’s founding members is Gil Dolev, founder and former CEO of Wayout Group, an Israeli intelligence gathering company. According to Times of Israel, Dolev and Hulio’s ties go back years; Dolev is the brother of NSO Group president Shiri Dolev, and the Wayout Group was acquired by NSO-affiliated entities.

According to Israeli business daily Globes, Dream Security already raised US$20 million in funding with a group of investors led by Israeli-American venture capitalist Dovi Frances. The company is looking to cater to the European market at this stage.

Globes also reported that Kurz will serve as Dream Security’s president and vice president of business development. He told the publication that during his time as the head of the Austrian government, he “witnessed many attacks on governments as well as on manufacturing plants and energy installations.”

Dream Security will build artificial intelligence based solutions to detect and respond to cyber incidents as they occur in real time, Globes reported.

Kurz, who was the Austrian Chancellor up until a year ago, made the switch from public to private sector following a corruption probe relating to embezzlement and bribery. He quit his role as the chancellor and politics altogether shortly after the October 2021 investigation, and by the end of December 2021, he was hired by billionaire Peter Thiel’s investment firm as a global strategist.

The disgraced ex-Chancellor, who denies any wrongdoing and says he quit his political role to focus on familial duties, was a runner-up in OCCRP’s “2021 Most Corrupt Person of the Year” alongside Bashar Al-Assad and Aleksandr Lukashenko.