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NSO Group software used to commit human rights abuses: WhatsApp CEO

Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp, has criticised NSO's spyware Pegasus, which has been claimed to be used by several governments to track over 50,000 phone numbers, in the latest leak.

Israeli company NSO Group's hacking spyware, Pegasus, has again stirred the surveillance debate about how individuals, including journalists, lawyers, and human rights activists in various countries are being targeted.

Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp, has reacted to the news reports, saying that the "NSO's dangerous spyware is used to commit horrible human rights abuses all around the world, and it must be stopped.

In a series of tweets, Cathcart has put forward some points and defended how WhatsApp in 2019 fought back against the tool from NSO.

"In 2019, WhatsApp discovered and defeated an attack from NSO. They rely on unknown vulnerabilities in mobile OSes, which is one of the reasons why we felt it was so important to raise awareness of what we'd found," he tweeted.

He added that in 2019, WhatsApp worked with CitizenLab, which identified over 100 cases of abusive targeting of human rights defenders and journalists in more than 20 countries. "But today's reporting shows that the true scale of abuse is even larger, and with terrifying national security implications," Cathcart added.

He suggested that companies and governments, especially, hold NSO Group accountable for this unwanted tracking. "Once again, we urge a global moratorium on the use of unaccountable surveillance technology now. It's past time," he added.

Cathcart claimed that this should be seen as a wake-up call for security on the Internet as smartphones are the primary device for many people. Governments and companies should do everything to secure it as much as possible. "Our security and freedom depend on it," he added.

"That's why we continue to defend end-to-end encryption so tirelessly. To those who have proposed weakening end-to-end encryption: deliberately weakening security will have terrifying consequences for us all," Cathcart said.

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