In May 2019 WhatsApp, one of the most popular communication applications, with 1.5 billion users world-wide, was hacked. Due to the app’s end-to-end encryption system, WhatsApp earned the status of a trusted and safe communication service.
The cyber-attack in May 2019, which ultimately breached the privacy of WhatsApp users, resulted from operated surveillance technology, known as spyware. Israeli based companies had created a product called “Pegasus” which enabled its operators to have remote access to all the information on the device it was (remotely) installed on. The hack attack that happened earlier this year is believed to have targetted over 100 Indian citizens, the majority of whom were involved in politics.
The BBC reported, however, that the privacy breach resulted not from the weakness of the application itself, but rather the vulnerabilities of the device’s operating software, i.e. iOS, Android and Windows.
Notwithstanding the above, the natural reaction of users was to delete WhatsApp from their devices. As reluctance to the use of WhatsApp grew, users’ concerns over their privacy caused downloads of the app in India to fall by 80%.
On 29 October WhatsApp, together with its owner Facebook, filed a lawsuit against the Israeli companies as the main manufacturers and distributors of Pegasus to governments.
NSO Group, of the Israeli companies involved, stated that it provided its software to governments only for anti-terrorist purposes. However, due to the nature of the professions targetted by the hack in India, the Indian government was accused of being involved, motivated by the desire to access information on its own citizens and critics – accusations which the Indian government denied.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.
Paralegal in our General Immigration team