WhatsApp spyware: Israeli firm NSO linked to hack faces lawsuit

By Digit NewsDesk | Published on May 20 2019
WhatsApp spyware: Israeli firm NSO linked to hack faces lawsuit
HIGHLIGHTS

NSO Group facing lawsuit in Israel over WhatsApp attack controversy.

UK-based Amnesty International alleges misuse of its spyware programme.

The human rights advocate is also seeking revocation of NSO’s export license.

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The NSO Group which is at the centre of the WhatsApp spyware controversy is facing a lawsuit backed by US-based Amnesty International. The human rights advocacy organisation has submitted an affidavit (via The Guardian) in an Israeli court alleging that the software created by NSO Group has been used to keep tabs on its staff and other human rights defenders. Amnesty is also petitioning the Israeli government for revocation of the NSO Group's export license.

According to Amnesty, there are an abundance of reports "pointing to governments’ deployment of the Pegasus spyware platform to surveil human rights defenders and NSO Group has failed in its duty to undertake adequate due diligence and corrective measures or other steps to prevent such foreseeable misuses of its products”. Amnesty's affidavit at the Israeli court said, “Staff of Amnesty International have an ongoing and well-founded fear they may continue to be targeted and ultimately surveilled.”

“NSO Group has a responsibility to respect human rights. By failing to investigate — or turning a blind eye to — evidence of human rights violations committed using its products, and continuing to sell its products to regimes known to repress human rights defenders, NSO Group is not fulfilling its responsibility,” Amnesty alleged in the affidavit.

The news follows last week’s revelation in which NSO’s Pegasus programme, which can turn on a phone’s microphone and camera, and collect location data, was reported to be used for surveillance and unsuccessfully compromise the phone of a UK-based human rights lawyer. Reportedly, the people behind the whole situation leveraged a vulnerability in the WhatsApp’s calling feature that allowed them to inject spyware on people phones.

Last week, the NSO Group said that it would do whatever necessary to ensure there is no abuse of its flagship spyware as well as make sure the company’s programme does not undermine human rights. The company also said that it would probe any “credible allegations of misuse” of its technology which “is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies”. It was alleged that the attack was launched by a Middle Eastern country. NSO has Middle Eastern and Western intelligence agencies as its customers, who use it to fight terrorism and crime.

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