Facebook sued an Israeli software company in October for allegedly hacking into around 1,400 phones and devices via its WhatsApp messaging app whose users included lawyers, journalists, human rights activists, and political dissidents.
An investigative story by the Financial Times in May reported that NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance company, accessed these users’ phones via Whatsapp video or voice-call requests from an unknown number.
WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app across Africa. The hacking was mainly done at the request of governments including Rwanda.
NSO Group is said to have developed a powerful spyware tool called Pegasus that is especially effective in monitoring a user’s voice calls, messaging, location and general phone use.
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WhatsApp said it worked closely with Citizen Lab, a research group affiliated with the University of Toronto focusing on cybersecurity, to investigate the attacks and link them to NSO.
“This is the first time that an encrypted messaging provider is taking legal action against a private entity that has carried out this type of attack against its users,” said a WhatsApp spokesman.
“In our complaint, we explain how NSO carried out this attack, including acknowledgment from an NSO employee that our steps to remediate the attack were effective.”