‘US Justice is looking at WhatsApp hack by Israeli espionage company’

Ministry lawyers have recently reached out to WhatsApp with technical questions, The Guardian reports. The alleged hacking attempt is said to have been made in early 2019 and was already investigated by the FBI at the time. Later that year, WhatsApp started a lawsuit against NSO. In that case, WhatsApp states that the Israeli company is ‘closely involved’ in WhatsApp hacks to users.

NSO makes spyware that would only be delivered to governments and law enforcement officials. Still, NSO’s spyware is said to be used by some users to spy on journalists, civil servants and human rights organizations.

Various targets

The 1,400 accounts that, according to WhatsApp, were threatened with spyware from NSO, belong to all kinds of users. There was a telephone number from the American capital Washington DC, but also numbers of political activists from Spain, journalists from India and Morocco, Rwandan dissidents and pro-democracy clergy from Togo.

The most famous spyware from NSO is called Pegasus. This spyware would work on both Android and iOS, and could eavesdrop on targets, take screenshots and transmit data such as location, internet history and the user’s address book.

WhatsApp backed by competitors

WhatsApp does not want to respond to the British newspaper. NSO says it is not aware of any research. The spyware maker relies on its sovereign immunity in WhatsApp’s case: no responsibility for what governments do with NSO spyware.

WhatsApp has previously been supported by Google, Microsoft and Amnesty International in the case against NSO. The judge will soon rule on the case.


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