NSO Group, a notorious Israeli cyberarms dealer, has claimed in a court filing that in 2017 two Facebook reps had approached the firm to buy the rights to use certain functions of Pegasus, a tool that enables remote hacking and data gathering on Apple devices.
The social networking firm is currently suing NSO Group over the spyware maker exploiting a WhatsApp vulnerability to help governments spy on users. This new court filing from the NSO CEO Shalev Hulio is a part of this ongoing lawsuit.
"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," the court filing seen by the folks at Motherboard reads.
"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 didn't try to buy Pegasus for actually hacking into users' devices, but to use its capabilities to effectively monitor its users who had installed Onavo Protect VPN on iOS devices. The filing claims that the company was willing to pay a monthly fee for each Onavo Protect user.
Onavo is Facebook's VPN product that itself came under fire for analyzing its users' web traffic, gathering information about users’ devices, their location, apps installed, how those apps were being used, and much more under the guise of being a VPN app.
While this is new information, if it's actually legit, Onavo was already an almost-spyware wrapped in the VPN clothing. Apple pushed Facebook to remove Onavo Protect from its App Store last year, after which the privacy invading app was also removed from the Google Play store.
NSO says it didn't partner with Facebook since it only works with governments and intelligence agencies (mostly draconian). "Facebook is a private entity and not a sovereign government or government agency for national security and law enforcement purposes and therefore does not meet NSO's customer criteria," the controversial spyware maker said.
"NSO declined the sale and informed Facebook that NSO only licenses its Pegasus technology to governments."