Lawyers for Facebook and its WhatsApp subsidiary challenged the plea of the spyware maker NSO Group to dismiss the high-profile hacking case the two are fighting against, arguing that it is immune from prosecution.
Facebook sued the Israel-based NSO group and its subsidiary Q Cyber Technologies last October in the United States, alleging that the companies “manufactured, distributed and exploited surveillance software, also called” spyware “, designed to intercept and extract information and communications from cell phones and devices of WhatsApp users. “
Facebook says the NSO Group used its Pegasus spyware to hack around 1,400 phones and devices of WhatsApp users, including those of lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and government officials.
NSO Group is also facing the FBI review according to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone hack Last year. UN investigation summary [PDF], released in January, says “Mr. Bezos was subjected to intrusive surveillance by hacking his phone due to the actions attributable to the WhatsApp account used by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman”.
The UN report suggests that Pegasus software from the NSO group may have been involved, an assertion the Israeli company has denied.
Spyware maker NSO scared of Facebook over WhatsApp hacking charges, doesn't show up in court
After not appear in court in response to Facebook's lawsuit, NSO Group said the ad biz did not properly serve its complaint and accused society of lying. He then claimed Facebook tried to buy NSO technology to monitor the Onavo VPN from the shutdown of the social network. And hoping that the case would be closed, NSO Group argued that it was immune because it only sells to governments.
Facebook legal deposit [PDF] opposing dismissal supports NSO group's claim that “Facebook sought to buy Pegasus to monitor Onavo app users is inaccurate and an attempt to distract from the defendants' own conduct and problems in that case”.
He then refutes the assertion of the spyware maker that he cannot be held responsible for his actions because the companies have worked with foreign governments.
The Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, according to the court records, only applies to foreign states, not individuals or entrepreneurs, citing Supreme Court case law on the subject. “Here, NSO is a for-profit trading company – definitely not a foreign state,” he says.
Facebook's opposition motion allows entrepreneurs working with the U.S. government to benefit from immunity. But American law does not recognize such immunity for those who work with foreign governments.
In addition, the record questions the credibility of NSO's claim that it works with foreign governments because its CEO has not identified such a client or contract with the court.
Addressing the spyware company's efforts to avoid a California lawsuit, Facebook's legal team highlights the spyware company's agreement to the WhatsApp terms of service, which specify California as the jurisdiction for litigation, and the company's use of server infrastructure in California, in particular the servers operated by Los Angeles-based QuadraNet.
If NSO Group actually operates a server infrastructure in support of its spyware, it undermines its defense that its customers do the hacking, says the lawyer for Facebook.
Facebook's court records also cite funding for the NSO by a California-based capital company to demonstrate its competence and the fact that one of its board members resides in the United States.
In a statement sent by email to The register, a NSO Group spokesperson said, “Our products are used to stop terrorism, combat violent crime and save lives. NSO Group does not operate Pegasus software for its customers, and it cannot be used against American mobile phone numbers or against one within the geographical limits of the United States. “
“Our previous statements about our business and the extent of our interaction with our clients from government intelligence and law enforcement agencies are correct. We have no further comments on this at this time, but please note that, according to the court calendar, we will file a brief in response to these latest filings by WhatsApp in the coming days. “®
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