A judge has told a Facebook-owned message service that it can sue an Israeli company whose spyware has been used by regimes to target journalists, dissidents and human rights activists around the world.
NSO Group, whose Pegasus software secretly infiltrates a target’s phone, is being sued by WhatsApp, and the latest ruling in a Californian court means that it may now have to reveal which regimes it supplies.
The software gives attackers full access to the phone and all its data without the user knowing, and the Israeli government has been sued by Amnesty International for not withdrawing the export licence for what it called “cyber-weapons”.
NSO, which denies any wrongdoing, is accused by WhatsApp of “playing a role” in the attack on more than 100 targets over a two-week period, in which phones were infected with malware sent through apparently innocuous WhatsApp messages.
Represented by Donald Trump’s former deputy attorney general, NSO said it played no role in the attack, an argument rejected by the court.
The company says it only sells spyware to government clients and law enforcement agencies to combat terrorists and criminals who would otherwise hide their communications through encrypted.