The FBI has reportedly considered using Pegasus spyware in criminal investigations

Just last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation considered using the NSO Group’s infamous Pegasus spyware in criminal investigations, . Between late 2020 and early 2021, agency officials were in the “advanced” stages of developing plans to inform FBI leadership about the software, according to internal bureau documents and court files filed by The times. Those documents also reveal that the agency had developed guidelines for federal prosecutors detailing how the FBI’s use of Pegasus should be disclosed in court.

Based on the documents, it’s unclear whether the FBI had considered using the spyware against US citizens. Earlier this year, The times found that the agency had tested Phantom, a version of Pegasus that can target phones with .

In July 2021, the FBI finally decided not to use Pegasus in criminal investigations. That’s the same month that published an investigation claiming the software had been used to compromise the phones of two women near murdered Saudi journalist. A few months later, the U.S. Pegasus maker placed NSO Group on the Commerce Department’s Entity List, a designation that prevents U.S. companies from doing business with the company. Despite the decision not to use Pegasus, the FBI has indicated that it is open to using spyware in the future.

“The fact that the FBI ultimately decided not to use the tool in support of criminal investigations does not mean that it would not test, evaluate, and potentially deploy other similar tools to access encrypted communications used by criminals.” sets a filed by the FBI last month.

The documents appear to paint a different picture of the agency’s interest in Pegasus than the one FBI Director Chris Wray shared with Congress during a closed-door hearing last December. “If you mean we used it in one of our studies to collect or target someone, the answer — as I’m assured — is no,” he said. . “The reason I hedge, and I want to be transparent, is that we’ve adopted some of their research and development tools. In other words, to find out how bad guys might use it, for example.”

All products recommended by Engadget have been selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at time of publication.

Add Comment