April 24, 2024
  • The NSO Group, an Israeli spyware manufacturer, was ordered by a US court to hand over its spyware codes, especially those of Pegasus, to Whatsapp.
  • The company has been spying on 1,400 WhatsApp users for a period of 2 weeks in 2019. It was the same year when Whatsapp filed a lawsuit against them.

US Court Orders NSO Group To Handover Its Codes To WhatsApp

The NSO group has been ordered by a US court to hand over the codes to its spyware, including the Pegasus spyware to WhatsApp— a major victory for the messaging platform.

They will also be required to show WhatsApp how the tools work and give them insight into its full functionality.

It also started when WhatsApp filed a case against this Israeli spyware group for exploiting a vulnerability of the messaging platform and spying on 1,400 of its users for 2 weeks back in 2019.

The lawsuit has been going on since then and ended in Whatsapp’s victory; thanks to Judge Phyllis Hamilton who ordered the group to give Whatsapp all the necessary spyware for one year before and after (April 29, 2018, and May 10, 2020) the attack on its users.

The only thing that went in NSO’s favor is that at present it won’t be required to disclose its client list or reveal who instructed them to track those 1,400 people. Plus, they are spared from divulging information about their server infrastructure.

Read More: How effective are government sanctions at tackling ransomware groups?

What Does NSO Have To Say?

The NSO group was not available for comment, perhaps because the litigation is still continuing.

The judgment was passed by a US district court and the NSO group is clearly not happy with it. Previously, it had filed for the case’s dismissal in the US Supreme Court. The firm believes that since they represent foreign governments, they should get legal immunity.

In its statement, it also said that the Pegasus spyware was only sold to “vetted” government organizations and was only used to counter terrorist activities.

In its lawsuit, Whatsapp claimed that the people who were spied on included journalists, politicians, diplomats, human rights activists, and some senior foreign government officials.

So why their accounts were being tracked for alleged “terrorist investigation” is still a mystery and makes their case a little less believable.

For undisclosed reasons, the Supreme Court found these claims baseless and rejected the plea in 2023, allowing Whatsapp to go forward with the lawsuit.

What is Pegasus and What Does The NSO Group Actually Do?

Pegasus is a spyware that when deployed on a target device can give you unrestricted access to everything on that phone, including messages, images, emails, contacts, and even phone calls.

Despite NSO claiming to be representing foreign governments, it doesn’t have a good reputation in the US. In fact, in 2021, President Joe Biden blacklisted it after it was found acting “contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the US ”

NSO only sells this spyware to governments across the world and claims that they are not responsible for how the buyer chooses to use it.

Although it has never publicly disclosed its client list, inside reports suggest that Hungary, India, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, and UAE have previously done business with this group.

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