Amnesty International Backs Lawsuit Against Israeli Firm Linked To WhatsApp Spyware Hack

The recent WhatsApp spyware hack linked to an Israeli firm has taken a new twist, following a lawsuit backed by Amnesty International Israel and other human rights community supporters.

The 50-member backed rights group has in a lawsuit filed in Israel detailed its concerns over fears that its staff may be under surveillance. This claim comes after the spyware was installed in the popular messaging app.

Millions of WhatsApp users across the globe were urged to update the service after the attack, which the company says could have exposed their private videos, photos, texts, and emails.

The human rights group says the NSO Pegasus software installed during the WhatsApp spyware hack that saw the privacy of 1.5 billion WhatsApp users was this week compromised.

In the suit, the human rights organization plus other members and supporters from the human rights community are calling on Israel’s defense ministry to ban the export of the Pegasus software by NSO.

The software is said to be able to covertly take control of mobile phones, copy their data and turn on microphones for surveillance purposes.

The NSO Group supplies its industry-leading software to several governments for purposes of tackling serious crimes and terrorism. Their software has seen dozens of countries receive licenses to use such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Mexico among others.

At the heart of the case is an affidavit from Amnesty International that concludes that its staff have an “ongoing and well-founded fear they may continue to be targeted and ultimately surveilled”, following a similar hacking attempt in 2018.

This is a culmination of a string of complaints in the past few months that the technology has been used to target activists, human rights groups, and journalists by several nations – and nothing has been done to counter it.

Just recently, an announcement by Facebook-owned WhatsApp sought to “clear the air” saying it had provided a patch for a security hole in the app, which it believed was an exploitation by the same NSO Group. This, they said could have allowed spyware onto a user’s mobile phone through a simple missed call on WhatsApp.

NSO has previously said that it intends to do “whatever is necessary” to ensure its technology serves its purpose: to fight terrorism and serious crime, not be “abused in ways that undermine other equally fundamental human rights”.

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