A group of tech giants including Microsoft, Google and Cisco have backed Facebook’s legal action against spyware company NSO Group.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp sued NSO Group last year and stated that the company’s software was used to hack 1,400 devices through a vulnerability in its service.
NSO Group had argued that it should be given sovereign immunity since its services are sold to federal governments and aimed to get the lawsuit thrown out. However, a judge denied the request to dismiss the lawsuit.
The spyware company is now taking legal action to overturn the ruling, which is what Microsoft and the other tech giant are taking action against. Other companies listed on the filing include the Internet Association and Microsoft-owned LinkedIn and GitHub.
Microsoft has published a blog post explaining its stance and notes that “we believe the NSO Group’s business model is dangerous and that such immunity would enable it and other PSOAs (private sector offensive actors) to continue their dangerous business without legal rules, responsibilities or repercussions.”
The tech giant argues that it would be extremely dangerous if NSO Group’s tools fell into the wrong hands. It also argues that private sector companies creating these tools are not subject to the same constraints as governments.
“Private companies should remain subject to liability when they use their cyber-surveillance tools to break the law, or knowingly permit their use for such purposes, regardless of who their customers are or what they’re trying to achieve,” the blog post outlines.
Lastly, Microsoft argues that companies like NSO Group threaten human rights whether they seek to or not and that these tools have been used on journalists and human rights defenders.
“We hope that standing together with our competitors today through this amicus brief will help protect our collective customers and global digital ecosystem,” Microsoft notes.
Numerous reports have suggested that NSO Group’s spyware has been used to target journalists and others. More recently, a report from Citizen Lab revealed that NSO Group’s spyware was used to hack the phones of dozens of Al Jazeera journalists.