According to the documents filed in the court, NSO Group CEO, Shalev Hulio said that “two Facebook representatives approached NSO in October 2017 and asked to purchase the right to use certain capabilities of Pegasus.” Pegasus is the software that came to light after it was reported that it had been used to ‘hack’ WhatsApp accounts of people, including a few in India.
The documents further said that Facebook wasn’t actually interested in buying 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.”
Onavo Protect was spyware-cum-VPN app made by Facebook. Apple in 2018 compelled Facebook to remove Onavo from its App Store.
Facebook, as per the report by Motherboard, wanted Pegasus as it would’ve made ‘spying’ on iPhone and iPad users. It’s a well-known fact that Apple devices are harder to hack and more secure than Android devices.
The court filing further revealed that, “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.” Facebook, as per the court filing, was willing to pay for getting the ability to ‘spy’ on those who were using Onavo Protect on Apple devices. “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.”
Facebook in a statement to Motherboard said that it NSO was trying to distract from the facts of the ongoing lawsuit involving WhatsApp. “NSO is trying to distract from the facts Facebook and WhatsApp filed in court over six months ago. Their attempt to avoid responsibility includes inaccurate representations about both their spyware and a discussion with people who work at Facebook.”
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