FBI intended to use Israeli spyware Pegasus for operations: NYT
The FBI reportedly informed the Israeli government in 2018 of its intention to use Pegasus to gather phone data of people it had already been monitoring.
A report by The New York Times revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had intended to use Israeli Pegasus spyware in its ongoing operations.
The Times' report indicated that the FBI reportedly informed the Israeli occupation government in 2018 of its intention to use Pegasus in order to gather phone data of people it had already been monitoring and investigating.
According to the NYT, the FBI explained to the Israeli Security Ministry that its purchase of Pegasus was "for the collection of data from mobile devices for the prevention and investigation of crimes and terrorism, in compliance with privacy and national security laws."
Last July, the University of Toronto's internet watchdog Citizen Lab exposed the misuse of Pegasus - developed by Israeli firm NSO Group - by governments by hacking thousands of phones belonging to activists, critics, and journalists.
When devices get infected with Pegasus, users' data, pictures, messages, and location can be accessible by governments and security agencies.
Cameras and microphones can be activated without the users' knowledge.
Devices can be infected when users click a link, or through a "zero-click" malware.
When the FBI's acquisition of Pegasus was revealed earlier this year, the US agency claimed it only purchased the spyware for "product testing and evaluation" purposes.
Cathy Milhoan, a spokesperson for the FBI, told the newspaper that "the FBI purchased a license to explore potential future legal use of the NSO product and potential security concerns the product pose."
"As part of this process, the FBI met the requirements of the Israeli Export Control Agency. After testing and evaluation, the FBI chose not to use the product operationally in any investigation," Milhoan claimed.
It is noteworthy that the US government sanctioned the NSO Group and placed it on a trade blacklist. But it was reported that Pegasus would be used for "cyber defense".