FBI considered using Pegasus spyware for US domestic surveillance

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A new report uncovers how Israel used the NSO Group's infamous Pegasus iPhone hacking tool, and how the FBI secretly bought it.

It has previously been reported that Israeli police have used the Pegasus spyware against its own citizens, and done so without legal oversight. Now the New York Times has released the results of a year-long investigation into the company behind the Pegasus spyware, including how the US considered using it and a more advanced tool.

According to the full report, and a New York Times summary of it, the FBI secretly bought Pegasus spyware in 2019. The NSO Group also reportedly gave the agency a demonstration of Phantom, a newer tool which was able to hack American phone numbers.

The FBI and the Justice Department then spent two years discussing whether to deploy Phantom, with the FBI only deciding against it and all NSO spyware in summer 2021.

Nonetheless, the New York Times investigation says that the Pegasus equipment is still in the FBI's possession at a New Jersey facility.

In November 2021, Apple sued the NSO Group over its Pegasus spyware. In December 2021, it was reported that the Israeli-based NSO Group was considering killing Pegasus in the face of such lawsuits and also financial pressure.

The group reportedly began deliberating the move specifically after the US Commerce Department blacklisted the company. According to the New York Times, this denies the NSO Group access to US technology it uses in its operations, such as Amazon cloud servers.