Citizen Lab Facing Legal Pressure from Israeli Spyware Maker in Court.

Sophia Taylor

By Sophia Taylor


NSO Group, an Israeli spyware firm, has been under continuous scrutiny by cybersecurity experts at Citizen Lab for its flagship product, Pegasus. This software has reportedly been used to infiltrate the mobile devices of journalists and human rights activists, exploiting vulnerabilities in platforms such as WhatsApp.

Legal Confrontations

In 2019, WhatsApp, along with its parent company Meta, filed a lawsuit in a U.S. federal court accusing NSO of targeting around 1,400 devices globally with Pegasus and other malicious software. Despite NSO’s numerous attempts to dismiss the lawsuit, the U.S. judiciary has consistently ruled against them.

As the lawsuit progresses, NSO has shifted strategies, seeking to compel Canada-based Citizen Lab to surrender all documents related to their investigations on Pegasus. However, a judge recently blocked this attempt, siding with Citizen Lab’s argument that releasing such information could endanger the individuals previously targeted by NSO’s spyware.

Impact of U.S. Blacklist

Since being blacklisted by the U.S. government in 2021 for engaging with oppressive regimes, NSO has been actively trying to repair its public image. This included a bid to present Pegasus as an essential anti-terrorism tool following attacks by Hamas in October 2023. NSO’s efforts to pivot its narrative highlight the complexities of balancing national security interests with privacy rights.

Other Legal Challenges

NSO faces additional lawsuits in the U.S., including cases brought forth by Salvadoran journalists, Apple, and Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, the widow of the slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The outcomes of these cases could further shape the legal landscape regarding the accountability of spyware manufacturers.

Recent Developments

In a significant ruling, the court-mandated NSO to disclose its source code not only for Pegasus but for any spyware that interacts with WhatsApp. This directive forms part of the ongoing discovery phase, where NSO has already secured thousands of documents from Meta and WhatsApp about Citizen Lab’s findings.

Despite setbacks in obtaining more detailed insights from Citizen Lab, NSO’s requests have been deemed overly broad by the presiding judge, leaving a narrow window for future appeals if they can substantiate allegations of criminal activities by the surveilled targets.

Final Thoughts

The legal skirmishes between NSO Group and various plaintiffs underscore the ongoing tensions between privacy advocates and entities using surveillance tools under the guise of national security. The outcome of these legal battles will likely have significant implications for both privacy rights and the responsibilities of technology firms in global cybersecurity.