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Apple and FBI grilled by lawmakers on spyware from Israeli NSO Group


A woman in Israel uses her iPhone to view the Israeli NSO Group building in Herzliya near Tel Aviv, August 28, 2016.

Jack Guez | AFP | Getty Images

Two Republican legislators are pressing AppleAccording to CNBC letters, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Israel to share information on spyware created by NSO Group in Israel.

They were signed by Jim Jordan, R.-Ohio and Mike Johnson, R.-La. as Ranking Member of House Judiciary Committee on Civil Rights. The New York Times reportedThe FBI acquired surveillance technology from NSO Group earlier in the year.

According to the Apple letter, “The Committee is investigating the FBI’s acquisition and testing of NSO-spyware spyware as well as potential civil liberty consequences of Phantom or Pegasus being used against U.S. citizens.”

The last year was an investigation by a coalition of news outletsNSO Software was discovered used to hack into the phones of journalists and activists. NSO Group has denied all findings in the report. The investigation was finally published by the NSO Group. blacklisted the firmThe company had knowingly provided its technology to foreign governments, who then used it to “maliciously” target phones of activists, journalists, and dissidents.

Pegasus is an Apple iOS hacker tool. GoogleAccess encrypted messages from Android apps without the need for the victim to click on any malware links. Vice News had first reportedNSO Group provided local U.S. law enforcement with a Phantom-like tool. The Times stated that the Israeli government gave Phantom permission to use U.S. mobile phones to be targeted. Pegasus is not allowed to do this, as only U.S. government agencies can purchase the license. According to the Times, the company showed the tool off to FBI agents.

Jordan and Johnson addressed a letter to Christopher Wray from the FBI, stating that the FBI acquisition of NSO spy software was “deeply troubling”. They also stated that Johnson and Johnson considered it a significant threat to civil liberties. persons.”

Pegasus technology was purchased by the FBI and used for testing. according to the TimesBefore making the decision to stop deploying Phantom in America, she had thought about it. The FBI is still asked to provide communications from the NSO Group and its subsidiaries regarding the purchase, testing, or use of NSO spyware by the FBI and any possible legalities of Phantom being used against domestic targets.

Apple’s capability to detect NSO spyware

Tim Cook introduces iPhone 13

Source: Apple Inc.

Jordan and Johnson wrote to Apple asking for details from CEO Tim Cook about Apple’s capability to identify when iPhones are being targeted by NSO Group tools. Apple must provide information about how many attacks have been detected using the NSO Group tools, and what time and place they took place. Apple must also provide “staff-level briefings” on its communications with agencies government regarding the spyware.

Pegasus is dependent on zero days. This refers to flaws that Apple’s software doesn’t know about and hasn’t fixed yet. Apple sued the NSO Group in NovemberTargeting its technology with spyware. The NSO Group sought an injunction to stop the NSO Group using Apple software or devices.

Apple’s preference for secrecy is a significant advantage, particularly when compared with other companies. Microsoft GoogleSecurity researchers have called for greater transparency by the company. Apple claimed last year that they patched a flawPegasus used the technology, but it is not clear if NSO technology can hack iPhones in other ways.

In a January statement, an FBI spokesperson stated to the Times that the FBI is interested in new technology “not only to investigate a possible legal use but also combat crime and protect the American people as well as our civil liberties.” This means that we regularly evaluate, test, and identify technical solutions for various reasons.

—CNBC’s Kif Leswing contributed to this report.

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