Whatsapp, a prominent Facebook-owned messaging app, filed a complaint in the US Federal Court against Israel-based NSO Group for exploiting a zero-day vulnerability and targeting attacks at 1400 users.
NSO is an Israeli technology manufacturer company which primarily makes equipment primarily intended to support anti-terror government agencies.
The allegations made by Whatsapp rests on the investigations that the company conducted after it was threatened with a new kind of cyber attack, where the attacker could send malicious codes to the victim’s device simply by calling.
Whatsapp alleged that the attackers used various servers that are associated with the NSO Group. “As we gathered the information that we lay out in our complaint, we learned that the attackers used servers and Internet-hosting services that were previously associated with NSO. In addition, as our complaint notes, we have tied certain WhatsApp accounts used during the attacks back to NSO. While their attack was highly sophisticated, their attempts to cover their tracks were not entirely successful,” Will Cathcart, head of Whatsapp, wrote in The Washington Post.
Whatsapp is planning to hold the NSO Group accountable under the US Computer Fraud and Abuse act as well as various other Federal and State laws. Around 100 human rights defenders were targeted earlier in May this year. Furthermore, it was alleged that the same software was used to target Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered in October of the previous year.
Meanwhile, Internet Freedom Foundation, in a series of tweets disclosed NSO interference in 45 countries, including India through an operator termed as ‘Ganges’ and also shared a list by Citizen Lab.
What does this have to do with India? A lot.
While we await further disclosure and more investigative reports specific to India, a post by @citizenlab in Sept. 2018 inferred NSO Spyware activity in India through an operator termed as, “Ganges”. 3/nhttps://t.co/49103ng7cV pic.twitter.com/MAxeqgqOAZ
— Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) (@internetfreedom) October 30, 2019
NSO Group dismissed the allegations made by Whatsapp and claimed that their technology is not designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists.