WhatsApp wins access to NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware code in new court hearing

WhatsApp logo shown on a smartphone
WhatsApp might expand from phones to tablets soon. (Image credit: Alex Ruhl / Shutterstock.com)

A US federal judge has ruled that NSO Group, the Israeli maker of the notorious Pegasus spyware, must share the source code with WhatsApp.

The decision comes as part of a 2019 WhatsApp lawsuit against NSO Group, accusing the spyware maker of unlawfully spying on 1,400 mobile over a two-week period by spreading malware from WhatsApp’s US-based servers.

Since the attack, WhatsApp has sought access to NSO Group’s spyware code, alleging that the Pegasus spyware was used to gain unauthorized access to encrypted messages.

Major win for WhatsApp

The ruling, issued by US District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, covers Pegasus and other relevant NSO Group spyware from April 29, 2018 to May 10, 2020.

NSO Group, an Israeli LLC incorporated in 2010, has fought against being held accountable for providing surveillance tools to government clients. The judge granted WhatsApp’s request for “information concerning the full functionality of the relevant spyware,” however other elements such as third-party client identities and server architecture remain behind closed doors.

WhatsApp’s Meta claimed that Pegasus could “intercept communications, capture screenshots, and exfiltrate browser history” across a number of apps, including “iMessage, Skype, Telegram, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and others.”

A WhatsApp spokesperson told TechRadar Pro: “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."

NSO Group has not commented on the court order.

As the legal proceedings continue, disclosures from both parties are due by August 30, leading up to the trial, which is scheduled to commence on March 3, 2025. Moreover, the case has broader implications globally for the surveillance industry. Apple also initiated legal action against NSO Group back in November 2021 for similar reasons.

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Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!