Lawsuit against Israeli spyware firm can proceed, judge rules

Lawsuit against Israeli NSO spyware firm can proceed, US judge rules
2 min read
18 July, 2020
Whatsapp sued the spyware firm in October over its alleged involvement in an international mobile phone hacking scandal.
The NSO Group may soon have to divulge information about its practices and clients [Getty]
A US judge has ruled that a lawsuit against a controversial Israeli spyware firm can proceed, raising prospects that the company will soon have to divulge information about its practices and state clients.

The NSO Group was sued by Whatsapp and its parent company Facebook last year for allegedly exploiting a vulnerability in the app to send malware to around 1,400 mobile devices, including those of journalists, government officials and human rights activists.

The messaging platform's lawsuit also claims that a program developed by NSO extracted private data, including messages, browser history and contacts, from phones, and sold services to governments, including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico.

NSO launched an appeal in April to have the lawsuit dismissed.

On Thursday, US district court Judge Phyllis Hamilton rejected the firm's argument that it had no role in targeting users of the mobile messaging platform.

Judge Hamilton said the NSO Group "retained some role" in the targeting of individuals, "even if it was at the direction of their customers".

Whatsapp welcomed the court decision, which will allow the case to proceed to the discovery stage.

"The decision also confirms that WhatsApp will be able to obtain relevant documents and other information about NSO’s practices," a WhatsApp spokesperson was quoted by The Guardian as saying.

In a statement, NSO Group said: "Our legal team is reviewing the court’s decision, so we are not in a position to comment in detail at this time. Our technology is used to save lives and prevent terror and crime worldwide, and we remain confident that our conduct is lawful."