Artificial Intelligence

The FBI almost used an infamous spyware for criminal investigations

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The FBI came very, very close to using the Pegasus spyware tool in criminal investigations, according to a new report from the New York Times. It’s a tool that can basically steal the contents of someone’s phone.

The FBI had previously said they had looked into using the tool made by Israeli spyware firm NSO in order to counteract bad actors. But apparently, the bureau had other designs. In fact, the FBI had made detailed plans for using the spyware and how it would be deployed in investigations.

Citing internal FBI documents and court records, the Times wrote:

F.B.I. officials made a push in late 2020 and the first half of 2021 to deploy the hacking tools — made by the Israeli spyware firm NSO — in its own criminal investigations. The officials developed advanced plans to brief the bureau’s leadership, and drew up guidelines for federal prosecutors about how the F.B.I.’s use of hacking tools would need to be disclosed during criminal proceedings.

It isn’t yet clear who the FBI intended to use the tool on, but the Times reported it only shut down the idea of using it once stories of other governments abusing the tool went public in 2021.

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The fact that the FBI purchased and considered using the tool is worrying for folks concerned about privacy. Imagine the consequences of law enforcement having unfettered access to people’s phones.

The Pegasus tool can be installed remotely without the target having to do so much as click a link. Then the hacker has access to everything in your phone like texts, photos, and emails. It can even reportedly remotely turn on the microphone or camera without the target knowing.

It’s tough to imagine a world where we’d want the government having that tool at its disposal.

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