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WhatsApp sues Israel’s NSO for allegedly helping spies hack phones around the world

By Raphael Satter and Elizabeth Culliford | 29 October 2019

REUTERS — WhatsApp sued Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group on Tuesday, accusing it of helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents in a hacking spree whose targets included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco, messaging service WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook Inc (FB.O), accused NSO of facilitating government hacking sprees in 20 countries. Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were the only countries identified. …

WhatsApp said the attack exploited its video calling system in order to send malware to the mobile devices of a number of users. The malware would allow NSO’s clients – said to be governments and intelligence organizations – to secretly spy on a phone’s owner, opening their digital lives up to official scrutiny. …

NSO came under particularly harsh scrutiny over the allegation that its spyware played a role in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul a little over a year ago. […]

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