The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly investigating Israeli spyware company NSO Group in connection with hacks on American residents and companies, Reuters reported. The investigation was allegedly underway by 2017 when the FBI was investigating if NSO had obtained any code from American hackers that could be used to infect smartphones.
The investigation reportedly gained momentum after WhatsApp sued the Israeli firm in October 2019 for exploiting a since-then fixed vulnerability in WhatsApp that allowed attackers to plant spyware in users’ phones just by ringing their target’s device, according to Reuters’ sources.The investigation is reportedly looking at how NSO Group has been involved in specific hacks, but it is not clear if specific hacking targets are a priority for the FBI.
NSO Group denied any knowledge of such inquiry to Reuters. An FBI spokeswoman also refused to give comment to Reuters, citing the Department of Justice’s policy of neither confirming nor denying the existence of any investigation. Through email, an NSO spokesperson sent the following statement:
“We have not been contacted by any US law enforcement agencies at all about any such matters and have no knowledge or awareness of any investigative actions. Therefore, we cannot comment further.” — an NSO Spokesperson
MediaNama has reached out to the DOJ for information.
This report comes at a time when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s phone was allegedly hacked and surveilled through a WhatsApp message sent from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s phone. Saudi Embassy in USA’s Twitter account had called these claims “absurd”. According to a security report by FTI Consulting, carried out on behalf of Bezos, NSO Group’s flagship software, Pegasus, could have been used to spy on Bezos. This report, since its publishing by Vice, has been criticised by information security efforts for its methodology and conclusion.
***Update (3:20 pm): Statement from NSO Group. Original article published at 1:09 pm.