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The advent of spyware makers in the burgeoning ‘lawful intercept’ market

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Last month, Facebook said that WhatsApp users were vulnerable to a sophisticated exploit capable of hacking into phones with little more than a few unanswered calls. The new exploit was likely part of Pegasus, a spyware suite created by the Tel Aviv-based NSO Group, which boasts of its ability to take over phones and computers on behalf of high-paying government clients, according to WhatsApp and Citizen Lab.

 

While the U.S. Justice Department recently told Fast Company that it is aware of the exploit, a rep for the agency would not comment on whether it is actively investigating it. Though NSO is perhaps the most infamous mobile spyware maker-a recent lawsuit alleges that its Pegasus technology was used to help track murdered Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi-it is only one of many shadowy firms offering smartphone malware that, while officially designed to target criminals and terrorists, can be used to target activists, lawyers, and other members of civil society.

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