(Reuters) – Tech giants including Microsoft Corp. and Google LLC on Monday joined Facebook Inc's legal battle against hacking company NSO Group Ltd. and filed an amicus card in federal court warning that the Israeli company's tools were “powerful and dangerous.
The card, which was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, opens up a new front in Facebook's lawsuit against NSO, which it filed last year after it was revealed to the cyber-surveillance company. had exploited a bug in Facebook-owned instant messaging program WhatsApp to help monitor more than 1,400 people worldwide.
The NSO has argued that since it sells digital burglary tools to police and spy agencies, it should benefit from "sovereign immunity" ̵
Microsoft, Alphabet Inc.-owned Google, Cisco Systems Inc., Dell Technologies Inc.-owned VMWare. and the Washington-based Internet Association teamed up with Facebook to argue against it, saying that granting sovereign immunity to the NSO would lead to a proliferation of hacking techniques and "more foreign governments with powerful and dangerous cyber-surveillance tools."
This in turn "dramatically means more opportunities for these tools to fall into the wrong hands and be used jokingly", the brief argues.
NSO, which did not immediately return a message for comment, says its products are used to fight crime. . But human rights defenders and technologists in places like Toronto-based The Citizen Lab and London-based Amnesty International have documented cases where NSO technology has been used to target journalists, lawyers and even nutritionists who lobby for soda.
Citizen Lab published a report on Sunday claiming that NSO's telephone hacking technology had been used to hack three dozen phones belonging to journalists, producers, anchors and executives at Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera and a unit belonging to a London-based reporter. . Al Araby TV.
The NSO's spy program has also been linked to the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated and divided at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Mr Khashoggi's friend, dissident video blogger Omar Abdulaziz, has long claimed the Saudi government's ability to see their WhatsApp messages that led to his death.
NSO has denied hacking Mr. Khashoggi, however, has declined to comment on whether its technology was used to spy on others in his circle.