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  • Voltaire Staff

US court orders Israeli firm NSO to share Pegasus' code with WhatsApp

In a new development in the ongoing legal battle between WhatsApp and NSO Group, a US court has mandated the Israeli cyber weapons maker to provide its code for Pegasus and other spyware products to WhatsApp.


This decision, delivered by Judge Phyllis Hamilton, represents a significant triumph for WhatsApp, the Meta-owned messaging platform.


The lawsuit, initiated by WhatsApp in 2019, alleged that NSO Group's spyware had targeted 1,400 WhatsApp users during a two-week period.


In her ruling, Judge Hamilton took into account NSO's request to be relieved from its discovery obligations in the case, citing "various US and Israeli restrictions." Despite this plea, she ultimately sided with WhatsApp, ordering NSO to provide all relevant spyware used during a specified period: from April 29, 2018, to May 10, 2020.


NSO is also required to furnish information regarding the complete functionality of the relevant spyware. However, Judge Hamilton ruled in favour of NSO on another issue, stating that the company will not be compelled, for now, to disclose its clients' identities or details about its server architecture, reported the Guardian.


NSO Group is an Israeli cybersecurity company known for developing and selling surveillance software. Pegasus is a spyware developed by NSO Group, capable of remotely infiltrating mobile devices to monitor and extract data without user’s awareness.


The code for NSO's Pegasus and other surveillance products is considered a closely guarded state secret. NSO is subject to strict regulation by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, which oversees and approves the sale of all licenses to foreign governments.


"The recent court ruling is an important milestone in our long running goal of protecting WhatsApp users against unlawful attacks. Spyware companies and other malicious actors need to understand they can be caught and will not be able to ignore the law," a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

Wikileaks archive reveals extensive communication over several years between the Italian spyware company, the Hacking Team, and intermediaries based in India.

These correspondences reveal explicit references to the clientele represented by these intermediaries, notably various state police forces and the cabinet secretariat.

Spanning from 2011 during the UPA II government's tenure to 2015 under the BJP-led government of Narendra Modi, these emails provide a window into the dynamics of surveillance technology transactions during this period.

The spyware developed by the Hacking Team also went by the names Galileo, Da Vinci, and the Remote Control System Intelligence module.


According to the 'Pegasus Project,' a collaboration of 17 media organisations worldwide, India was also among the 45 nations employing malware created by the NSO Group. The alleged surveillance list encompasses 50,000 individuals, with at least 14 heads of state, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

More than 1,000 phone numbers from India were included in the list. The initial list featured 40 Indian journalists, including an author, covering politics, foreign affairs, and defence. A subsequent list contained the names of opposition figures such as Rahul Gandhi, election strategist Prashant Kishor etc.

NSO sells its spyware to governments worldwide, stating that the agencies using it are accountable for its usage. It claims Pegasus aids law enforcement and intelligence agencies in combating crime and safeguarding national security, primarily targeting terrorists, child abusers, and serious criminals.

The Biden administration has expressed concerns about products like Pegasus, warning that they could pose a threat to US national security and counterintelligence efforts.

The legal proceedings are still on in the matter.






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