The United States (QNN)- Facebook accused the Israeli surveillance technology company NSO Group of using servers located in the U.S. to infect hundreds of smartphones with spyware, reported Bloomberg.
The accusation is as part of a lawsuit initiated by the social media giant last year, accusing the Israeli NSO group of using WhatsApp accounts to hack into users’ phones.
In a filing released on Thursday in federal court in Oakland, California, lawyers representing Facebook stated that the Israeli group had used a network of remote servers in California to hack into phones and devices that were used by attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, government officials and others.
The Israeli spyware group claimed that it has no role in operating the spyware and is limited to “providing advice and technical support to assist customers in setting up” the technology.
John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University Of Toronto’s Munk School, however, said evidence presented by Facebook on Thursday indicated NSO Group was in a position to “look over its customer’s shoulders” and monitor who its government clients were targeting.
“This is a gut punch to years of NSO’s claims that it can’t see what its customers are doing,” said Scott-Railton. He said it also shows that the Israeli company “probably knows a lot more about what its customers do than it would like to admit.”
NSO’s spyware, known as Pegasus, can gather information about a mobile phone’s location, access its camera, microphone and internal hard drive, and covertly record emails, phone calls and text messages. Researchers have accused the company of supplying its technology to countries that have used it to spy on dissidents, journalists and other critics.
A representative for NSO Group said its products are “used to stop terrorism, curb violent crime, and save lives.”
The Israeli group is accused of exploiting a flaw in Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service to hack 1,400 users, including journalists, diplomats, human rights activists, senior government officials and other parties. The targeted phone numbers were in countries including Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Mexico.