FBI admits buying spyware from NSO Group
FBI officials confirmed that they bought the powerful Pegasus spyware from the NSO Group, although this product has long been used for surveillance on journalists, activists and human rights activists around the world. Law enforcement officers say they just wanted to “be aware of new technologies and methods.”Let me remind you that last year, public attention turned to the aforementioned Pegasus spyware produced by the Israeli company NSO Group. The fact is that in the summer of 2021, the human rights organization Amnesty International, the non-profit project Forbidden Stories, as well as more than 80 journalists from a consortium of 17 media organizations in ten countries of the world published the results of a joint investigation dedicated to Pegasus.
After this publication, Pegasus became widely known outside the information security community, and the NSO Group had problems. So, in November 2021, the US Department of Commerce blacklisted the NSO Group, banning the company from access to American technology, and Apple sued the NSO Group, calling the company “immoral mercenaries of the 21st century.”
Now law enforcement officers claim that they simply wanted to “keep abreast of new technologies and methods.” The statement emphasizes that the FBI received a limited license from an Israeli firm “only for product testing and evaluation,” but never used the Pegasus on the job or as part of any investigation.
However, now the FBI is being criticized for the very fact of cooperation with the NSO Group. Critics wonder why the US’s top law enforcement agency ever had to pay for access to an infamous spy tool that has long been scrutinized by security experts.
An FBI spokesman did not say how much or when the government paid the NSO Group, but according to The New York Times, in 2019 the FBI received a $5 million annual license from the NSO Group. In addition, The Guardian quoted its own source familiar with the deal as saying that the FBI later paid another $4 million to renew the license but never actually used the spyware for its intended purpose.
Let me also remind you that we wrote that Attackers infected iPhones of American diplomats with NSO Group spyware.