The FBI nearly deployed the Pegasus spyware to its investigations

The FBI nearly deployed the Pegasus spyware to its investigations

Dozens of internal FBI documents revealed to The New York Times(Opens in a new window) It showed that FBI officials came close to releasing the controversial Pegasus hacking tool in its own criminal investigation.

The times It reported that FBI officials “paid” in late 2020 and the first half of 2021 to use the hacking software in their criminal investigations. However, it is unclear how the bureau planned to use the hacking tool – made by the Israeli NSO group – or whether it had considered using the spyware against US citizens.

Significantly revised documents have been edited to times After a Freedom of Information request, he showed that agency officials were in the “advanced” stages of planning to brief FBI chiefs on spyware and wrote guidelines for federal prosecutors about how they need to disclose Pegasus use during court cases.

Pegasus has been used by various government agencies around the world to hack the target’s mobile phone. The hacker can access messages, emails, contacts and can remotely operate the device’s cameras and microphone. it has been It has been criticized by human rights groups(Opens in a new window) For its zero-click hacking ability, a hacked user does not need to click a link, read a message, or answer a call in order for their device to be hacked.

The FBI has been known to have acquired the monitoring tool for some time, but the agency has so far been only interested in the software for research and development purposes.

In December 2021 during a closed hearing with Congress, FBI Director Chris Wray said in response to a Question from Senator Ron Wyden(Opens in a new window) He asks if the agency used only software that the FBI had purchased the Pegasus license for for research and development reasons.

He said, “If you mean that we used it in any of our investigations to collect or target someone, the answer is – as I’m sure – no. The reason I want to hedge, and I want to be transparent, is because we got some of their R&D tools. In other words, To be able to see how bad guys can use it, for example.”

In response to the revelations, Senator Wyden criticized Wray for providing “misleading testimony about the office’s acquisition of powerful hacking tools.”

Talking to times An FBI spokeswoman said, “The director’s testimony was accurate when it was given and remains valid today – there has been no practical use of the NSO product to support any FBI investigation.”

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Although a decision was made not to use Pegasus in criminal investigations, the FBI indicated in a legal briefing(Opens in a new window) Last month, it was open to other spyware use in the future.

“Just because the FBI ultimately decided not to deploy the tool in support of criminal investigations does not mean that it will not test, evaluate and eventually deploy other similar tools to access encrypted communications used by criminals,” the statement read.

NSO . group was Blacklisted by the United States(Opens in a new window)while the European Union Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has called for the European Union to block the program. Last week a Dutch member of the European Parliament described the Pegasus device, which has been used against journalists, activists and government critics around the world, as “A serious threat to democracy(Opens in a new window). ”

Amid the controversy, the Israeli company cut its staff by 15% and raised prices by about 20% to fight a cash loss of tens of millions of dollars this year, Bloomberg Reports(Opens in a new window).

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