Reuters reports the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been looking into Israel’s NSO Group Technologies since 2017 to see if the company, which makes and sells surveillance software, has been involved in hacks of U.S. citizens or businesses, or in gathering intelligence on governments. It’s also alleged NSO’s software was used in the recent hacking of Jeff Bezo’s phone.
NSO’s most famous product is called Pegasus. It’s spyware that lets a user remotely peer over the shoulder of a user whose smartphone has been infected, allowing them to view media content on the device, read messages, monitor network activity, and even record audio. Pegasus has been used to compromise iPhones since at least 2016 and can be installed in various ways, including links embedded in text messages or shared multimedia content.
NSO denies everything — The company has denied any involvement with the Bezos hack and says claims that Facebook filed a lawsuit against it alleging it hacked 1,400 WhatsApp accounts are also baseless. Last November, NSO president Shiri Dolev defended the company in a rare public appearance, saying it’s “prevented terrorist events” and “captured pedophiles” and that it’s “not a spy company.”
But researchers at Citizen Lab in Toronto, Canada, have found that NSO’s software has been used against activists, dissents, and journalists in at least half a dozen countries that have “previously been linked to abusive use of spyware to target civil society.”
According to NSO’s website, the company only sells its products — which are intended to assist with investigating and preventing terrorism and organized crime — to government agencies. The F.B.I. and Citizen Lab think otherwise. Even if the NSO’s claims are true, there’s no way to be sure those government buyers haven’t used the tools procured from the company against U.S. targets, civilian or otherwise.