WhatsApp Sues Israeli Surveillance Firm For Alleged Spying On Users

WhatsApp, Inc. is taking Israel-based NSO group to court over allegations of utilizing its platform for illegal surveillance, the messaging service’s head Will Cathcart wrote in The Washington Post on Tuesday.

What Happened

In a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court in San Francisco, it said the cyber intelligence firm used the messaging app’s servers located in the U.S. and elsewhere between May and June this year to send malware to more than 1,400 targeted users, with the intent of surveillance.

The Facebook, Inc. FB subsidiary further accused NSO of illegitimately creating multiple accounts on the platform using phone numbers from different countries across the world. 

NSO used these accounts to call the target users and inject their devices with its infamous Pegasus malware or another remote trojan developed for the same purpose, it alleged.

The target users included attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, diplomats, and other senior foreign government officials.

WhatsApp identified the Kingdom of Bahrain, UAE, and Mexico as some of the countries where these users were located.

What's Next

NSO Group refuted WhatsApp’s allegations in a statement on Tuesday, adding that it will “vigorously” fight them in court.

"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,” the company said. “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.”

NSO is facing another lawsuit filed in December 2018. The company was accused of helping the Saudi government to spy on slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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