The ‘NSO Group’ Is Accusing Facebook of Having Tried to License Their Spyware

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated July 12, 2021

The 'NSO Group' is answering to Facebook's accusations by throwing the ball in the social media giant's court. They claim the Californian company wanted to license the Israeli "Pegasus" spyware to implement it inside Facebook's Onavo app. Pegasus was a powerful spyware tool for iOS devices developed by NSO quite a while back, and which was able to harvest text messages, exfiltrate app information, track the GPS location of the device, steal passwords, and even eavesdrop on calls.

Unfortunately, Pegasus was used extensively in the world between August 2016 and August 2018, with researchers discovering that at least 45 countries were deploying the Israelian spyware against their citizens. In October 2019, Facebook decided to sue the NSO Group after they figured that its spying tools compromised approximately 1,400 WhatsApp users. According to the lawsuit submitted in a San Francisco Federal Court, Pegasus was unlawfully and maliciously exploiting zero-days in the WhatsApp software, leading to what the tech giant's characterized as "an unmistakable pattern of abuse."

The 'NSO Group' is now turning the tables, claiming that they rejected Facebook's proposal to license Pegasus because they only did it for governments and not private companies. In addition to that, they describe Facebook's accusations as baseless and even accuse the social media company of failing to prepare the legal paperwork properly, which resulted in legislative procedure problems. NSO says Facebook didn't have powerful methods to spy on iOS devices in the same way that they did with Android, and they felt like Pegasus could solve this problem for them. Facebook, on the other side, completely dismissed these statements by saying that these allegations had the sole purpose of distracting the court from the real facts.

It is true, though, that the "Onavo" app has raised much controversy after the free VPN app was found to be breaching Apple’s App Store privacy policy by collecting user data and sending it to Facebook’s servers. Later on, the app was pulled from the Google Play Store too. All that said, even if Facebook wasn't trying to add Pegasus in Onavo for iOS, they are giving the NSO Group something to hold on to and make allegations that are at least seemingly realistic. At the very least, this development will complicate the legal process by much now.

For a better user experience we recommend using a more modern browser. We support the latest version of the following browsers: For a better user experience we recommend using the latest version of the following browsers: