A new report has just surfaced online claiming that social media giant Facebook tried to buy the Pegasus spyware. Surveillance vendor NSO Group shared the information as part of a court filing in an ongoing lawsuit against Facebook. According to the information available, Facebook is currently suing the NSO group for using a flaw in WhatsApp to help governments hack select users. As reported in the past, 121 WhatsApp users in India were also targeted as part of the attack. The hackers were able to successfully breach 20 users out of the 121 targets. Let’s take a closer look at the report. Also Read - Facebook launches standalone Messenger app for macOS and Windows
Facebook tried to buy Pegasus; details
According to a report from Motherboard Vice, NSO group CEO Shalev Hulio revealed that two Facebook representatives approached the company. Hulio added that the company wanted to buy parts of its spyware program Pegasus. However, the company was interested in using these tools to monitor some of its users. The report also went on to note that Facebook was working on its VPN product Onavo Protect. Facebook was also analyzing the web traffic of the users who installed this product. NSO filing revealed that the company wanted to monitor the phones of users who had already installed Onavo. Originally, Pegasus was designed to infect the smartphone of the user and “lift data” from the infected device. Also Read - Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp back to normal after outage
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The court filing also revealed more details about the proposed arrangement. Facebook was willing to pay a monthly fee for each Onavo Protect user. As a response, Facebook responded in a statement adding that NSO was misrepresenting the discussion. It also went on to state that NSO was trying to distract the public from the facts in the Pegasus hacks. Also Read - WhatsApp: NSO Group used state-of-art Pegasus spyware to target Indian Journalists, and more
However, NSO maintained that it only sells Pegasus to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It added that Facebook was a private entity and it did not meet the customer criteria. As per the report, Apple forced Facebook to remove Onavo Protect from the iOS App Store. In addition, Facebook also went ahead and removed the app from the Google Play Store.