The CEO of Israel-based security company NSO Group reported that in 2017 Facebook considered buying its malicious Pegasus program to snoop on Apple iOS users. In court documents filed in an ongoing case in which Facebook sued the NSO Group last year for snooping on WhatsApp users including in India, NSO CEO Shalev Hulio alleged that “two Facebook representatives approached NSO in October 2017 and requested to buy the right to use those Pegasus capabilities.”
According to a report in Vice on Saturday citing court records that Facebook members do not seem to be involved in buying parts of Pegasus as a hacking tool for remotely breaking into phones, but instead, as a way to track more effectively the phones of users who have already installed Onavo.
Onavo Protect – a program from Facebook that would get the feature – was marketed as a piece of VPN program. Onavo was mainly used to gather information about what other users of Facebook applications used on their mobile devices.
According to the court filing that the representatives of Facebook claimed that Facebook was concerned that their method of collecting user data that Onavo Protect was less successful on Apple devices than on Android devices. In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the NSO CEO misrepresents communications between the organization and Facebook employees.
One of the spokesmen said that NSO is attempting to detract from the reality Facebook and WhatsApp brought in court more than six months ago. Their effort to escape accountability involves false statements of their spyware as well as a conversation with people working on Facebook.
The spokesperson also said that our complaint explains how NSO is responsible for targeting more than 100 human rights activists and journalists worldwide.
NSO has maintained that it only markets Pegasus to clients of intelligence agencies and law enforcement. Apple forced Facebook last year to withdraw Onavo Safe from its App Store. Facebook has also blamed the operating system of Apple for hacking the phone of Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
Investigators suspect Bezos ‘iPhone has been hacked after receiving a 4.4 MB video file containing malware through WhatsApp — in the same way, that 1,400 select phones including journalists and human rights advocates were broken into last year’s NSO Group’s Pegasus program.
In an interview with the BBC, Facebook’s Global Affairs and Communications Vice President, Nick Clegg, said it wasn’t WhatsApp’s fault because end-to-end encryption is uncheckable and blamed Bezos ‘episode for Apple’s operating system. The NSO Party has denied it was part of the hacking by Bezos.
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