FBI Almost Deployed Pegasus Spyware in Investigations

Dozens of internal FBI documents were exposed. The New York Times(opens in new window) FBI officials have shown that they came close to using the controversial Pegasus hacking tool in their own criminal investigations.

Hi times FBI officials were forced to use the hacking software in its own criminal investigations in late 2020 and the first half of 2021, the FBI reported. It’s unclear how the bureau plans to use the hacking tool created by the Israeli NSO group, or whether it’s considering using spyware on American citizens.

Heavily revised documents were published. times After a Freedom of Information request Agency officials plan to brief FBI chiefs on spyware and show that they have written guidelines for federal prosecutors on how to use Pegasus in court cases.

Pegasus has been used by various government actors around the world to infiltrate a target’s mobile phone. Infiltrator messages, You can access emails and contacts, and remotely activate the device’s cameras and microphones. Human rights groups condemned it.(opens in new window) For its zero-click hacking capabilities; This is when the hacked user clicks on a link; No need to read a message or answer a call to infiltrate their device.

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The FBI has long been known to have acquired the surveillance tool, but until now the agency maintained that it was only interested in the software for research and development purposes.

During a closed-door hearing with Congress in December 2021, FBI Director Chris Wray responded to a question from Senator Ron Wyden.(opens in new window) Asking whether the agency used software that the FBI only licensed Pegasus for R&D reasons.

He said, “If you’re ever going to use it in investigations to recruit somebody or target somebody, the answer is no, I guarantee it. I’ve acquired some of their tools for research and development, and I champion the cause of transparency. In other words, so that bad guys can figure out how to exploit it. For example.”

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In response to the revelations, Senator Wyden slammed Wray for giving “false testimony about the bureau’s purchase of powerful hacking tools.”

Talking to Yan. times An FBI spokeswoman said: “The director’s testimony is accurate and true to this day – there has been no operational use of any NSO product to support the FBI’s investigation.”

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The FBI said in a legal statement that it has decided against using Pegasus in criminal investigations.(opens in new window) Last month it opened the doors to other spyware in the future.

In a statement, “the FBI ultimately decided not to use the tool to assist in criminal investigations, so it could test other similar tools to access encrypted communications used by criminals. That doesn’t mean it won’t be evaluated and eventually used.”

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NSO has been blacklisted by the United States.(opens in new window)Although the European Union Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has asked the EU to ban the software. Dutch MEP journalists around the world; A Dutch MEP last week labeled Pegasus, which has pitted itself against activists and government critics, as “a serious threat to democracy.(opens in new window)

Amid the controversy, the Israeli company has cut staff by 15% and raised prices to combat financial losses of tens of millions of dollars this year, according to Bloomberg.(opens in new window).

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