WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart has described revelations about the surveillance software Pegasus from the Israeli company NSO as a “wake-up call”. “Cell phones are either safe for everyone or not safe for everyone,” he told the UK newspaper The Guardian on Saturday. “If this affects journalists around the world, if this affects human rights defenders around the world, it affects us all.”
Pegasus – always identical goals
Most recently, an international journalist consortium reported that the Pegasus software could have been used to spy on smartphones by numerous journalists, human rights activists, politicians and business people. The current revelations were in line with what WhatsApp NSO accused of in 2019, Cathcart said: High-ranking government officials around the world – including people in high positions in national security – were from governments in an attack on 1,400 WhatsApp users in 2019 been targeted with the spy software.
Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, sued NSO in the United States in 2019. The allegation is that NSO tried to gain access to hundreds of smartphones via a security hole in WhatsApp that was closed later. Among the target persons were journalists, lawyers, dissidents, human rights activists, diplomats and government officials. NSO defends itself in court. The company emphasizes that contracts with customers have been terminated on suspicion of human rights violations.
Governments and customers
The NSO Group claims a large number of governments are buying their software, Cathcart said. “That means that these governments (…) fund it.”
The NSO Group accused the WhatsApp boss of being deliberately misleading. Their products, which would be sold to “security-cleared” foreign governments, could not be used for cyber surveillance in the USA, a company spokesman told the German press agency on Saturday. “No foreign customer has ever been granted technology that would enable them to access phones with US numbers.” The NSO Group also has no insight into the data of its customers.