Israel’s NSO Group, best known for its spyware, has been ordered by a U.S. court to hand over its Pegasus code to WhatsApp.

It’s the latest hurdle for the company, having been blacklisted in the U.S., subjected to a lawsuit by Apple, and experienced significant financial difficulties.

According to the Guardian, Judge Phyllis Hamilton reviewed NSO’s request to be released from all its discovery duties in the lawsuit, citing “various US and Israeli restrictions.” Despite this, she ruled in favor of WhatsApp, mandating that NSO produce “all relevant spyware” data spanning one year before and after the timeframe when 1,400 WhatsApp users were reportedly targeted by the Pegasus spyware, covering the dates from April 29, 2018, to May 10, 2020. 

NSO is also required to provide WhatsApp with details about the complete capabilities of the specific spyware. However, Hamilton ruled in favor of NSO on a separate issue, deciding that the company is not obligated to reveal the identities of its customers or details about its server setup at this stage.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told the Guardian, “The recent court ruling is an important milestone in our long-running goal of protecting WhatsApp users against unlawful attacks. Spyware companies and other malicious actors need to understand they can be caught and will not be able to ignore the law.”

What are the dangers of Pegasus spyware?

Pegasus is advanced spyware designed for military use, capable of infiltrating mobile phones remotely to gain complete dominance over the device. When Pegasus covertly installs itself on a phone, it can duplicate texts, images, emails, and record conversations, as well as turn on microphones and cameras for uninterrupted spying, all without the user’s awareness. 

It was developed by the cyber-arms firm and was subsequently blacklisted by the U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration in 2021. The government stated that the company knowingly provided spyware used by foreign governments to maliciously target the phones of dissidents, human rights activists, and journalists.

Meta has been approached for further comment.

Featured image: Canva

Suswati Basu

Freelance journalist

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books. She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award.

With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News
and ITV News. She has also contributed to the Guardian and received training at the BBC As an audience, trends, and SEO specialist, she has participated in panel events alongside Google.

Her career also includes a seven-year tenure at the leading AI company Dataminr, where she led the Europe desk and launched the company’s first employee resource group for disabilities. Before this, Suswati worked as a journalist in China for four years, investigating censorship and the Great Firewall, and acquired proficiency in several languages.

In recent years, Suswati has been nominated for six awards, including the Independent Podcast Awards, International Women’s Podcast Awards, and the Anthem Awards for her literary social affairs show.

Her areas of speciality span a wide range, including technology, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), social politics, mental health, and nonfiction books.

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