A series of tech companies including Microsoft and Google have expressed their support for the legal battle that Facebook’s WhatsApp is waging against NSO Group, because that espionage company has used spyware against WhatsApp users.
Cisco, GitHub, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, VMware and the Internet Association have jointly filed a so-called amicus curiae in WhatsApp’s case against NSO last year. They thus share their opinion with the court, without being a party to the lawsuit themselves.
WhatsApp argues that NSO Group made it possible with its Pegasus program to penetrate WhatsApp users’ smartphones simply by calling them via the chat app. For example, the devices of more than fourteen hundred users have been attacked, including those of journalists and civil rights activists.
The NSO Group focuses on governments with its espionage products and services. Pegasus would cover a series of exploits and command & control servers to extract passwords, images, contacts and messages from smartphones, among other things. WhatsApp claims that NSO was able to access its servers and was thus actively involved in attacks.
The companies that have now expressed their support for WhatsApp point to the risk of NSO’s tools falling into the wrong hands, for example if NSO itself were a victim of a hack. They refer to a hack in 2015 at Hacking Team, a competitor of NSO.
In addition, they argue that private companies do not have to comply with the same international rules as governments and do not have to be restrained for economic reasons or the protection of citizens. For example, governments would be more inclined to disclose vulnerabilities so that companies can remedy them and citizens are better protected.
Finally, they argue that the NSO Group poses a threat to human rights by making cyber espionage tools available to a growing number of regimes. As an example, Microsoft points to research from CitizenLab that was published Monday. That human rights organization claimed that with NSO Groups Pegasus attacks were carried out on 36 phones of employees of Al-Jazeera and Al Araby TV. There would be indications that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were behind the attacks.
Source: Citizen Lab