High profile tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, VMWare and Cisco have all filed an amicus brief in support of Facebook's legal action against NSO Group.

Microsoft and Google teams up with Facebook

Microsoft has announced the decision on December 22. WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned social media site, sued the spyware vendor NSO Group last year.

WhatsApp alleges that its software was used to hack around 1,400 devices through a vulnerability in the messaging platform. Other companies who are listed on the filing include the Internet Association, and Microsoft subsidiaries LinkedIn and GitHub.

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NSO Group responded to the lawsuit that Facebook filed in 2019 and has argued that it should benefit from sovereign immunity, according to Reuters.

This is because the group sells its tools to foreign governments. But in July 2020, a judge denied the group's request to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the social media giant. Now NSO Group is appealing to overturn the decision and it is this appeal attempt that Microsoft, Google and other tech companies are pushing back against.

Fighting against NSO Group

In a blog post titled "Cyber Mercenaries Don't Deserve Immunity", Microsoft state three reasons why they believe that the actions of the group are concerning and why it does not deserve the immunity that it is asking for in court.

Microsoft's post says that they believe that NSO Group's business model is dangerous and that immunity from the court will only enable it and other PSOAs or private-sector offensive actors to continue their dangerous business without any responsibilities, repercussions or legal rules.

Microsoft has argued that NSO Group's weapons could be very dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands. They also stated that the tools are not subject to the same constraints when they are made by private companies instead of government security agencies.

Government security agencies have to worry about their diplomatic relationships and in keeping their own citizens safe, but with private companies, they do not.

Also, Microsoft argues that the tools are a threat to human rights after reports that they have been used on human rights and journalists defenders.

Microsoft's post concludes that private companies should remain subject to liability when they use their cyber-surveillance tools to break the law or permit their use for those purposes, regardless of who their customers are or what they are trying to achieve. Microsoft hopes that they are standing together with their competitors through the brief to help protect their collective customers and the global digital ecosystem.

After the release of Microsoft's statement, the NSO Group did not respond to a request from media sites for a comment. Years ago, the group has argued that its software is used by governmental law enforcement agencies to tackle terrorism and crime. It stated that it investigates any allegations of the misuse of its software.

Numerous reports over the years have alleged that the group's spyware has been used against targets, from political dissidents and journalists.

Last week, Citizen Lab reported that NSO Group's software was used to hack the phones of dozens of employees from Al Jazeera. It has also been reported that the group's software has been used to target a politician from Spain, journalist from Mexico and many others.

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Written by Sieeka Khan

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