The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has admitted to acquiring and testing eavesdropping software developed by Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, saying the FBI has not used it in any of its investigations.
The monitoring company that developed the Pegasus software has been embroiled in a controversy following revelations that devices using its software have been misused by governments and other services to spy on iPhone smartphones.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The FBI was granted a limited license only to test and evaluate the product. There was no operational use to support any investigation,” an FBI spokesman said in a statement, confirming earlier reports in The New. York Times “but also in the British newspaper” The Guardian “.
The FBI added that its license for the software was no longer active.
NSO, which has long kept its customer list confidential, has announced that it only sells its products to “verified and legitimate” government customers.
However, security researchers and academics have found that NSO software has been used against political dissidents, journalists, and activists.
The FBI admits it at a strange time. Just last month, the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center said in a statement posted on Twitter that software sold by surveillance companies had been “used in ways that pose a serious risk to US personnel and security systems and systems.” .
Towards the end of last year, the US Department of Commerce added the NSO to a blacklist of human rights concerns.
In 2020, Reuters reported that the FBI was investigating the NSO’s role in possible electronic interceptions against US citizens and companies.
The FBI did not immediately return a request for comment on the state of the investigation, which Reuters said was ongoing, at least since 2017.