Pegasus and Phantom spy tools maker NSO Group asks the court to boot out Facebook and WhatsApp’s request to stop it from hacking
You probably know all about NSO Group. The famed Israeli company is well known for its Pegasus and Phantom spying tools sold to law enforcement and espionage agencies all over the world to track users’ phone calls, messages, chats, WhatsApp, Facebook, video calls and everything that a user can do using his/her smartphone.
Back In 2019, NSO and it’s Pegasus hit headlines when it was found that Pegasus exploited a flaw in WhatsApp to spy on the users. Agencies around the world using Pegasus used the tool to spy on the WhatsApp chats of journalists, dissidents, activists, etc. At that time, WhatsApp owner, Facebook sued Pegasus maker, NSO Group in a California court on 29 October 2019.
In the lawsuit, WhatsApp alleged that Pegasus spyware produced by the Israeli company NSO Group was used to hack the phone systems of 1,400 users between April 2019 and May 2019 in 20 different countries. Of the 1,400 users at least 100 were human rights defenders, journalists, and other members of civil society across the globe.
In the lawsuit, WhatsApp demanded a permanent injunction blocking NSO Group from attempting to access its computer system and those of its parent company, Facebook through any means. Additionally, they have asked that the court rule that NSO’s alleged hacking of user’s data violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, breached their contracts with WhatsApp and “wrongfully trespassed” on Facebook’s property. In short, WhatsApp and Facebook want the court to bar NSO Group from spying on its users.
The lawsuit came up for hearing yesterday in the California federal court where the NSO group disputed these allegations. In a motion filed by NSO Group, it said that WhatsApp doesn’t have the standing to demand such an injunction. The motion says that since WhatsApp has already patched the flaw that was exploited by the Pegasus spying tool. As such WhatsApp doesn’t have any locus standi in demanding the injunction barring NSO Group from hacking Facebook or WhatsApp.
NSO Group’s motion argues that the sole purpose of NSO is to provide governments and law enforcement agencies with technologies to help them fight terrorism and serious crimes. The motion claims that WhatsApp had prematurely moved for a default judgment before properly serving NSO with the lawsuit, allegedly violating international laws regarding service of process.
The case is going on in the California Federal Court and we will keep you updated about the hearings.