The lawsuit comes six months after Whatsapp discovered a glitch that allowed cyberattackers to secretly install surveillance software by ringing targets using the downloaded application’s phone function.
By World Israel News Staff
The social media platform Whatsapp has launched a lawsuit against the NSO Group, an Israeli cybersecurity firm, after claiming that it used its popular messaging program to illegally hack into personal cellphones using an NSO surveillance tool called Pegasus.
According to media reports, nearly 1,400 phones were illegally tapped into by the NSO Group during a 14-day period from the end of April to the middle of May.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California on Tuesday, alleges that the subjects targeted in the attacks included human rights activists, political dissidents, diplomats and journalists, among them Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by Saudi operatives at the country’s embassy in Turkey in 2018.
It claims that the NSO Group “took a number of steps, using WhatsApp servers and the WhatsApp Service without authorization, to send discrete malware components to target devices.”
According to The Guardian, the lawsuit comes six months after Whatsapp discovered a glitch that allowed cyber attackers to secretly install surveillance software by ringing targets using the downloaded application’s phone function.
After the discovery, Whatsapp hired Citizen Lab, an academic research group based at the University of Toronto, to help identify the source and track down those that were targeted, the report says.
Whatsapp released a statement regarding the lawsuit.
“This is the first time that an encrypted messaging provider is taking legal action against a private entity that has carried out this type of attack against its users, In our complaint, we explain how NSO carried out this attack, including acknowledgment from an NSO employee that our steps to remediate the attack were effective,” the statement said.
The NSO Group licenses its cybersecurity products only to government intelligence and law enforcement agencies for the sole purpose of preventing and investigating terror and serious crime, their website states.
The company denied the allegations and promised to fight them.
“The sole purpose of NSO is to provide technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime. Our technology is not designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists. It has helped to save thousands of lives over recent years,” the statement said.
“The truth is that strongly encrypted platforms are often used by pedophile rings, drug kingpins and terrorists to shield their criminal activity. Without sophisticated technologies, the law enforcement agencies meant to keep us all safe face insurmountable hurdles. NSO’s technologies provide proportionate, lawful solutions to this issue