Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) has filed a lawsuit against an Israel Cybersecurity firm – NSO Group and Q Cyber over the alleged hack of its WhatsApp to spread malicious software to mobile phones. The company has detected security vulnerability in WhatsApp earlier this year. According to the complaint, NSO Group infected the mobile phones of senior government officials, journalists, human rights activists, and diplomats with malicious software by hacking WhatsApp. NSO Group could not break encrypted messages. However, the cybersecurity company decrypted the messages on the receiver’s devices after infecting them.
In the lawsuit, Facebook is seeking a ban on the employees of NSO Group from using its WhatsApp. According to a mobile security firm, and Citizen Lab researchers, NSO Group spied on the human rights activists in the UAE by spreading Pegasus malware in 2016. Google’s security researchers found vital clues that implicate NSO Group for exploiting a security flaw to attack its Pixel phones. According to Google, NSO Group also attacked Android smartphones of reputed brands such as LG, Xiaomi, Samsung, and Huawei.
Pegasus software accesses messages of WhatsApp
NSO Group used Pegasus software, intercept software, to access the messages transmitted through WhatsApp. According to Facebook, Pegasus software also accessed messages sent through other platforms such as WeChat, Telegram, Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Apple’s iMessages.
How does the NSO Group break into WhatsApp messages?
According to Facebook, the workers of the NSO Group created accounts on WhatsApp and sent infected messages to the targeted devices. The group controlled 1,400 mobile devices by sending malicious code.
WhatsApp informed the users of 1,400 mobile phone users about the suspected attack. It took the help of Citizen Lab volunteers to tackle the attack by issuing a patch. Will Cathcart, the head of WhatsApp, said mobile phones offer a great utility, but the hackers used them to record sensitive messages, and reveal the locations.
Novalpina Capital, a private equity firm based in Europe, took over NSO Group in February 2019. The company promised to comply with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business. However, attacks on 100 mobiles happened after the takeover of the NSO Group by Novalpina. NSO Group did the reverse engineering of the app of WhatsApp to spread the malicious code and get access to the targeted devices. However, NSO Group refuted the claims of Facebook and said it would fight.