Lawmakers press FBI & Apple to provide information on use of Pegasus spyware

NSO Group headquarters in Israel.

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A pair of lawmakers in the U.S. House are grilling Apple and the FBI about the law enforcement agency's acquisition of iPhone spyware made by Israeli company NSO Group.

The letters were signed by Rep. Jim Jordan, a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Mike Johnson, a ranking member of the subcommittee on civil rights. According to CNBC, the letters seek information on "the FBI's acquisition, testing, and use of NSO's spyware."

Both lawmakers penned the letters after a January New York Times report indicated that the FBI had acquired NSO-developed spyware tools like Pegasus and Phantom. The report added that the agency tested the Pegasus tech, and mulled using Phantom in the U.S. before deciding against it.

Pegasus is a spyware tool that lets users hack into iPhone or other devices. The tool — and NSO Group — became notorious after they were used to target the cellular devices of journalists, activists, and opposition leaders. Phantom, on the other hand, is a similar tool that allows users to target U.S. cellular devices — a capability that Pegasus lacks.

In their letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Jordan and Johnson call reports that the FBI purchased NSO Group tools "deeply troubling and presents significant risks to the civil liberties of U.S. persons."

As for the letter to Apple, the lawmakers asked CEO Tim Cook to provide information about the company's ability to detect if devices have been compromised by NSO Group tools.