Remember Who May Have Wanted to License Pegasus?

August 20, 2021

Cyber intelligence firm NSO, makers of Pegasus spyware, knows no bounds when it comes to enabling government clients to spy on citizens. Apparently, however, it draws the line at helping Facebook spy on its users. At his Daring Fireball blog, computer scientist John Gruber reports that “Facebook Wanted NSO Spyware to Monitor iOS Users.” We learn that NSO CEO Shalev Hulio has made a legal declaration stating he was approached in 2017 by Facebook reps looking to purchase certain Pegasus capabilities. Gruber quotes Motherboard’s Joseph Cox, who wrote:

“At the time, Facebook was in the early stages of deploying a VPN product called Onavo Protect, which, unbeknownst to some users, analyzed the web traffic of users who downloaded it to see what other apps they were using. According to the court documents, it seems the Facebook representatives were not interested in buying parts of Pegasus as a hacking tool to remotely break into phones, but more as a way to more effectively monitor phones of users who had already installed Onavo. ‘The Facebook representatives stated that Facebook was concerned that its method for gathering user data through Onavo Protect was less effective on Apple devices than on Android devices,’ the court filing reads. ‘The Facebook representatives also stated that Facebook wanted to use purported capabilities of Pegasus to monitor users on Apple devices and were willing to pay for the ability to monitor Onavo Protect users.’”

We are glad to learn NSO has boundaries of any sort. And score one for Apple security. As for Facebook, Gruber asserts this news supports his oft-stated assertion that Facebook is a criminal operation. He bluntly concludes:

“Facebook’s stated intention for this software was to use it for mass surveillance of its own honest users. That is profoundly [messed] up — sociopathic.”


Cynthia Murrell, August 20, 2021


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