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WhatsApp Emerges Victorious: NSO Group Ordered to Surrender Pegasus Source Code

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In a landmark ruling, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of the Northern District Court of California has ordered that NSO Group provide the source code of Pegasus and other surveillance tools to WhatsApp, as reported by The Guardian. The court decree compels NSO Group to furnish WhatsApp with “all relevant spyware” employed in the cyberattacks spanning from 2018 to 2020, alongside a comprehensive elucidation of the functionalities of its tools.

This verdict arrives four years subsequent to WhatsApp’s allegations against Pegasus creators for infiltrating over 1,400 mobile devices with spyware. Initiated by Meta-owned WhatsApp, the lawsuit contends that NSO Group, an Israeli firm, resorted to developing malware as a means to illicitly access users’ encrypted messages.

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Exploiting a vulnerability in WhatsApp’s voice call feature, NSO Group managed to implant malicious code into victims’ devices, even activating surreptitiously without user interaction. Following the discovery, WhatsApp promptly rectified the loophole and enlisted the help of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, investigating over a hundred instances across 20 nations.

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The lawsuit posits NSO Group’s actions as contravening the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Comprehensive Computer Fraud and Data Access Act.

Read Also: WhatsApp tests new filter for favorite contact chats on iOS

WhatsApp Secures Battle, But NSO Group Confrontation Persists

WhatsApp Triumphs, NSO Group Ordered to Surrender Pegasus Code

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Judge Hamilton’s ruling arrives amidst numerous attempts by NSO Group to dismiss the lawsuit. Despite NSO Group’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing sovereign immunity on behalf of a foreign government, the apex court rebuffed the plea in early 2023, ensuring the legal tussle endured.

While NSO Group is compelled to surrender Pegasus code, the Court has not mandated disclosure of ancillary data, such as its clientele or server infrastructure. NSO Group markets its surveillance tools to governments globally, ostensibly to combat terrorism and child exploitation, asserting compliance with Israeli government oversight.

Beneath this veneer, the software has been deployed to surveil journalists, activists, and politicians, exemplified by a notable case in Mexico where Pegasus was utilized to monitor prominent figures including journalist Carmen Aristegui and magnate Carlos Slim during Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration. Despite ensuing scandals and governmental assurances, Mexico remains NSO Group’s most prolific client.

The court’s ruling signifies a triumph for WhatsApp in its crusade against NSO Group. A spokesperson for the tech giant emphasized that “spyware entities and other malicious actors” must acknowledge the repercussions of their actions, underscoring the principle of accountability.

Meanwhile, NSO Group faces another legal challenge from Apple, who recently succeeded in relocating the trial to the United States, diverging from NSO Group’s intended venue in Israel.


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