FBI says it tested Israeli company NSO Group’s spyware

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FILE PHOTO: FBI headquarters building is seen in Washington
FILE PHOTO: FBI headquarters building is seen in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

February 2, 2022

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday acknowledged that it acquired and tested a hacking tool made by Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, but the U.S. law enforcement agency said it did not use it for any investigation.

The surveillance firm, which makes the Pegasus software, has been embroiled in controversy after revelations that its tools were misused by governments and other agencies to hack iPhones.

NSO has said its technology is intended to help catch terrorists, pedophiles and hardened criminals. The company is currently being sued by Apple for violating its user terms and services agreement.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The FBI procured a limited license for product testing and evaluation only, there was no operational use in support of any investigation,” an FBI spokesperson said in a statement, adding that its license was no longer active.

NSO, which has long kept its client list confidential, has said that it sells its products only to “vetted and legitimate” government clients. Security researchers and academics have found that NSO’s tool has been used against political dissidents, journalists and activists.

The U.S. Commerce Department added NSO to a blacklist last year, restricting U.S. companies from doing business with it, over human rights concerns.

(Reporting by Chris Sanders; Editing by Will Dunham)

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