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FBI investigating Israeli spyware vendor involvement in possible hacks: report

FBI investigating Israeli spyware vendor involvement in possible hacks: report
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The FBI is reportedly investigating an Israeli spyware vendor to see if it had any involvement in possible personal and governmental hacks.

Reuters reported Thursday, citing four people familiar with the inquiry, that the FBI is looking into NSO Group Technologies.

One person interviewed by the FBI told Reuters that the bureau has been looking at the company since 2017, when it was attempting to determine whether the company had received code from American hackers that can be used to infect smartphones.

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NSO’s software Pegasus has the ability to collect everything on a phone. The company told Reuters it sells spy software and technical support only to governments, and those tools are used to go after terrorists and other criminals. It also has maintained that its products cannot be used against U.S. phone numbers, but some experts have dismissed that claim.

The FBI had more interviews with technology experts after Facebook filed a lawsuit in October alleging NSO took advantage of its WhatsApp messaging service to hack 1,400 people, Reuters reported, citing two people who had spoken with Justice Department officials.

The bureau is also trying to figure out if any U.S. or allied government officials have been hacked with NSO products and which nations were responsible for the hacks, a Western official briefed on the investigation told the news wire.

The Israeli spyware vendor said it is not aware of the probe.

“The report refers to a check apparently undertaken three years ago and we are not aware that any such check was made," an NSO spokesperson told The Hill in a statement Friday. "NSO has never been contacted and therefore believes the reporting is simply wrong."

When reached for comment, an FBI spokesperson told The Hill, "We neither confirm nor deny the existence of investigations due to [Justice Department] policy, so we cannot comment."

The business strategy firm FTI Consulting, which was hired after Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosPhilanthropists and billionaires must walk the talk on climate change Jeff Bezos roasted for buying yacht so big it comes with smaller support yacht The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting MORE's phone was hacked following a message from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, said NSO could have provided the technology to Saudi Arabia. NSO denied this, and Saudi Arabia called the idea “absurd.” Other experts have said evidence showing this is inconclusive, Reuters noted.

Updated at 11:48 a.m. on Jan. 31.