WhatsApp sues Israeli spyware company
US President Biden approved the federal court's investigation into the activities of Israel's NSO Group, a spyware company with ties to the Israeli ministry of defense
By News Desk - January 09 2023

(Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

NSO Group

WhatsApp’s mother company Meta Platforms Inc received the green light for a lawsuit against Israel’s NSO Group from the United States Supreme Court on 9 January.

The company allegedly allowed its customers to use spyware to exploit the messenger application.

The court rejected an appeal by the Israeli company to drop the case, in which the company’s defendants claimed immunity for the persecution of crimes committed by end users.

However, the Pegasus spyware illegally surveyed thousands of influential individuals worldwide.

The US court revealed that about 1,400 WhatsApp users were targeted by Pegasus. The individuals include US diplomats stationed in Africa.

According to a report by Reuters, the Israeli company alleged they couldn’t be held accountable because they were acting “as an agent for unidentified foreign governments” purchasing the spyware.

Nonetheless, this was categorically rejected by the administration of US President Joe Biden, which interfered with abetting the judges to reject NSO’s reasoning and proceed with the legal process.

Meta celebrated the decision and hailed it a victory for justice, stating that “NSO’s spyware has enabled cyberattacks targeting human rights activists, journalists, and government officials.”

The company added, “we firmly believe that their operations violate US law, and they must be held accountable for their unlawful operations.”

In November 2022, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was exposed by The New York Times for procuring the spyware in question between 2019-2020, with the intention to deploy it in the US.

The FBI paid the Israeli company $5 million for the software and asked the judiciary to prepare legislation for its use if ever addressed at federal court.

However, in July 2021, they were ordered to “cease all efforts regarding the potential use of the NSO product,” after it gained notoriety over its misuse by several states.

In similar reports by The New York Times, the United Arab Emirates employed spyware for espionage against the British prime minister, and other officials from the UK.

Additionally, they used the exploit against journalists and human rights activists, including the wife of Jamal Khashoggi, a few months before his murder by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

For its part, Saudi Arabia allegedly acquired the spyware for its own use to spy on dissents in a secret deal with then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The sale was approved back in 2017 and stayed active until at least 2019, after the Israeli Defense Ministry called the NSO Group, to allow the KSA to use it undeterred.

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