WhatsApp closer to lawsuit win after spyware group's no-show

WhatsApp closer to winning spyware lawsuit after NSO Group's no-show in court
2 min read
04 March, 2020
NSO Group's failure to show up in court represents a positive development for WhatsApp, which sued the Israeli spyware company for targeting its users.
The lawsuit is the first legal action of its kind, according to Facebook [Getty]
WhatsApp is closer to victory in its lawsuit against Israeli spyware company NSO Group after the company failed to show up to court, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

In October, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, sued NSO Group in US federal court for allegedly targeting some 1,400 users of its encrypted messaging service with highly sophisticated spyware.

The lawsuit is the first legal action of its kind, according to Facebook, as it treads in a near-total unregulated realm.

Facebook says NSO Group violated the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act with a crafty exploit that took advantage of a flaw in WhatsApp, allowing smartphones to be infilitrated from a missed call alone.

NSO promised to "vigorously fight" the allegations, but was a no-show in the Northern District of California, where the case was filed.

WhatsApp stated NSO had failed to show up before a judge and said it would "continue to pursue swift accountability from the courts in the US", according to the Reuters report.

NSO responded that WhatsApp had "prematurely moved for default before properly serving NSO with the lawsuit" and that "this default notice will not stand."

Though a notice of default paves the way for a default judgment against NSO, a litigator who specialises in cybersecurity told Reuters that courts tend to be generous about overturning default judgments when challenged.

"If NSO came forward in a timely way to vacate the default judgment, there’s a very strong chance that the court would grant such a motion," Scott Watnik of Wilk Auslander told Reuters.

However, Watnik said he found it extraordinary that NSO was publicly commenting on a lawsuit that it said it had not been properly served in.

"I’ve never seen that before," he said. "It’s a high risk maneuver because it really cuts away at their ability to move to vacate the default judgment."

Infamous for being deployed against dissidents from Gulf countries - most prominently slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi - NSO Group's spyware was suspected to be involved in the hacking of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone in January.

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