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WhatsApp to pursue lawsuit against NSO Group for Installing Pegasus Malware

WhatsApp Pegasus spyware
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The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed WhatsApp parent Meta to pursue a lawsuit against Israel’s NSO Group. The court has rejected the spyware maker’s bid to derail the lawsuit filed by the messaging service. WhatsApp has alleged that NSO Group has exploited a bug in their messaging app to install spy software, allowing the surveillance of 1,400 people, including journalists and human rights activists.

On Monday, the top court’s justices turned away NSO’s appeal of a lower court’s decision that the lawsuit could move forward. The agency argued it is a foreign government agent and therefore it is immune from being sued under US law limiting lawsuits against foreign countries.

In 2019, WhatsApp filed a suit against NSO Group alleging that the agency has exploited an audio-calling vulnerability in WhatsApp to sneakily deploy Pegasus phone spyware onto users’ devices. Reports state that pegasus gives its government customers near-complete access to a target’s device such as their personal data, photos, messages, and granular location data.

US President Joe Biden’s administration had urged the justices to reject NSO’s appeal, noting that the U.S. State Department had never before recognized a private entity acting as an agent of a foreign state. The Justice Department noted that “NSO plainly is not entitled to immunity here.” In 2021, the US Department of Commerce blacklisted the Israeli firm for complicity in “transnational repression”.

Meta welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to deny NSO’s appeal and called it a “baseless” appeal. In a statement, Meta said, “NSO’s spyware has enabled cyberattacks targeting human rights activists, journalists, and government officials.” It added, “we firmly believe that their operations violate US law and they must be held to account for their unlawful operations.”

 

 

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