Court Orders NSO Group to Share Pegasus Spyware Code with WhatsApp Developers

The US court has mandated Israeli spyware developer, NSO Group to furnish the source code of its product Pegasus to WhatsApp. This decree marks the climax of the legal clash staged in 2019, following allegations against NSO Group for utilizing Pegasus to spy on 1400 messenger users over a fortnight.

Pegasus is not an ordinary spyware. It is a highly sophisticated surveillance tool that, upon successful deployment, enables unlimited access to users’ personal data, including phone conversations, emails, photographs, location, and even encrypted messages, unknown to the victims.

Judge Phyllis Hamilton dismissed NSO Group’s arguments that American and Israeli constraints hinder the fulfilment of WhatsApp’s data submission demands. She emphasized that the company must hand over all relevant spy software used a year before and after the said two-week period during which WhatsApp users were attacked.

The court’s ruling also mandates NSO Group to provide comprehensive information on the spyware’s functionality. The company was, however, spared from divulging its client identities and server architecture information. This decision marks a significant stride in protecting WhatsApp’s users from unlawful attacks and reinforces that spy software manufacturers cannot overlook the law.

This court’s decision is a crucial milestone in achieving our long-standing goal: to shield WhatsApp users from illegal attacks. Spy companies and other malefactors must realize they can be caught and cannot flout the law“, proclaimed a WhatsApp spokesperson.

The international outrage sparked by the sale of Pegasus to governments and its deployment to track dissidents, journalists, and activists is considerable. Despite NSO refraining from revealing its client identities, the past few years have seen media reports and investigations mentioning Poland, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, India, Hungary, and the United Arab Emirates among countries that previously employed this technology.

NSO Group insists that their software aids law enforcement and intelligence agencies in combating terrorism and crime. However, the proliferation and misuse of such tools jeopardize civil liberties, and sometimes even national security.

In 2021, the Biden administration blacklisted NSO Group, accusing the company of activities counterproductive to the US’s foreign policy and national interests. The new policy from the White House introduced in early February mandates global visa restrictions for individuals involved in the misuse of commercial spyware, including in countries of the European Union (EU) and Israel.

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