Tech giants, including Microsoft and Google, have joined Facebook in support of its legal action against NSO Group, accusing the Israeli-based spyware developer of selling “dangerous” surveillance tools to foreign governments.
The messaging service WhatsApp and its parent company, Facebook, sued NSO Group in federal court last year, alleging the firm’s Pegasus software was used to hack the mobile phones of more than 1,400 WhatsApp users, including those of journalists, diplomats and human rights workers. Lawyers for WhatsApp argue the breach violated the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and other laws.
According to the WhatsApp complaint, users would receive what appeared to be a video call that injected malicious code into their devices — even if they didn’t pick up the call. The remotely installed spyware then gave the hackers access to the phones’ messages and other communications, the complaint said.
NSO Group says its technology is designed for targeting terrorists and criminals, and that it takes action when alerted to misuse. The company has argued that it is entitled to sovereign immunity in the WhatsApp lawsuit because its products are sold to foreign governments.
On Monday, Microsoft, Cisco, GitHub, Google, LinkedIn, VMWare and the Internet Association filed an amicus brief in the WhatsApp case, writing that immunizing NSO Group would “further encourage the burgeoning cyber-surveillance industry to develop, sell, and use tools to exploit vulnerabilities” in violation of US law.