Facebook has submitted detailed proof in the court about the Israeli company NSO Group and its allegedly hacking into at least 1,400 WhatsApp users last year via its controversial surveillance software Pegasus.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Facebook’s legal brief said “it was exposing a massive NSO attack infrastructure operating in the US, in direct contradiction of NSO’s defenses, under the guise of third parties”.
According to Facebook, its attacks on WhatsApp users “were hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) in the US and by the Californian company QuadraNet (with a German provider)”.
Facebook asserted that NSO had a contract with QuadraNet, using its server “more than 700 times during the attack to direct NSO’s malware to WhatsApp user devices in April and May 2019.” Moreover, the legal brief listed “subdomains which were all allegedly hosted on Amazon servers covering the dates of the attacks.”
According to the report on Sunday, new revelations could make it harder for NSO Group to continue to deny any US operations. NSO responded to the new Facebook legal brief, saying that “Our products are used to stop terrorism, curb violent crime, and save lives.”
“NSO Group does not operate the Pegasus software for its clients, nor can it be used against US mobile phone numbers, or against a device within the geographic bounds of the United States.”
NSO has denied the allegations on WhatsApp hacking in the past.
In counter allegations, the CEO of NSO Group has claimed that Facebook proposed to buy its malicious software Pegasus in 2017 to snoop on Apple iOS users.
In court documents filed during an ongoing lawsuit in which Facebook has sued the NSO Group for snooping on WhatsApp users last year including in India, NSO CEO Shalev Hulio claimed that “two Facebook representatives approached NSO in October 2017 and asked to purchase the right to use certain capabilities of Pegasus”.
A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that the NSO CEO is misrepresenting conversations between the company and Facebook employees.
“NSO is trying to distract from the facts Facebook and WhatsApp filed in court over six months ago. Their attempt to avoid responsibility includes inaccurate representations about both their spyware and a discussion with people who work at Facebook,” the spokesperson said.
NSO has maintained that it sells Pegasus only to intelligence and law enforcement agency clients. Facebook has even blamed Apple’s operating system for the hacking of Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone.
Investigators believe that Bezos’s iPhone was compromised after he received a 4.4MB video file containing malware via WhatsApp — in the same way when phones of 1,400 select people including journalists and human rights activists were broken into by Pegasus software from NSO Group last year.
In an interview to the BBC, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, has said it wasn’t WhatsApp’s fault because end-to-end encryption is unhackable and blamed Apple’s operating system for Bezos’ episode. The NSO Group has denied it was part of Bezos’ hacking.