Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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The US Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by the Israeli tech company NSO Group to block a lawsuit filed by WhatsApp accusing it of allowing mass cyber espionage of journalists and human rights activists. The Supreme Court denied NSO’s plea for legal immunity, allowing the case to continue in a California federal court. The lawsuit targets NSO’s Pegasus software, which allegedly gave government customers, including Mexico, Hungary, Morocco and India, near-complete access to a target’s device.

“We’re grateful to see the Supreme Court rejected NSO’s baseless petition,” said WhatsApp spokesperson Carl Woog. “We firmly believe that their operations violate US law and they must be held to account for their unlawful operations.”

NSO’s Pegasus software, which is marketed to governments, was described in court filings as enabling “law enforcement and intelligence agencies to remotely and covertly extract valuable intelligence from virtually any mobile device.” WhatsApp filed the lawsuit in 2019, claiming that Pegasus was used to target approximately 1,400 devices to steal personal data and steal information from people using the app.

NSO argued that it only markets Pegasus to governments and that it offered authorities a method to carry out legitimate criminal investigations on WhatsApp’s encrypted messaging service. “NSO’s spyware has enabled cyberattacks targeting human rights activists, journalists, and government officials,” said Woog.

The question of when private contractors can seek immunity from lawsuits has significant foreign policy implications, and NSO argued this point to the Supreme Court, who however still denied them the immunity.

The lawsuit also comes a year after Apple filed a similar suit against NSO, accusing the firm of targeting iPhones. The revelation of tens of thousands of activists, journalists and politicians being listed as potential targets of Pegasus spyware also prompted the suit.

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