Facebook Can Sue Israeli Spyware Firm NSO Group, US Appeals Court Rules
Facebook can go ahead with a lawsuit against Israeli cyberattack company NSO Group, a US appeals court ruled. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Monday ruled that Facebook, which is now known as Meta Platforms, can sue NSO for exploiting a bug in the WhatsApp cell phone messaging tool, which is owned by Meta, to install malware on the mobile devices of some 1,400 people, including human rights activists, politicians and journalists.
NSO, which is privately owned, had claimed that it was immune from the lawsuit claiming “conduct-based immunity,” a common law doctrine offering foreign sovereign immunity and protecting foreign officials acting in their official capacity. The case will return to US District Court in Oakland, California.
NSO has come under scrutiny following reports that its Pegasus spyware has been used by certain governments, including the UAE, Hungary, India, Mexico, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, to spy on human rights activists, politicians and journalists. NSO says the software was sold to countries to allow their government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime. Last week, the NSO Group was added to a blacklist of companies that the US Department of Commerce says operate against US national security interests and its foreign policy interests, which bars it from purchasing US technology.