Wednesday 15 May 2019 3:47 pm

Private equity owner of NSO Group pledges privacy crack down after Whatsapp hack

Novalpina Capital, which owns a large stake in Israeli spyware firm NSO Group – whose technology was used to hack Whatsapp – has promised to crack down on the company’s approach to privacy.

The UK private equity fund said it would bring the company in line with UN privacy principles and reform its governance to ensure “public transparency”, the Financial Times reported.

Read more: Metro Bank shares rebound from all-time lows after Whatsapp rumours quashed

“We are determined to do whatever is necessary to ensure that NSO technology is used for the purpose for which it is intended . . . and not abused in a manner that undermines other equally fundamental human rights,” Novalpina co-founder Stephen Peel wrote in an open letter to Amnesty International.

A flaw in Whatsapp’s technology allowed hackers to use NSO Group products to spy on some of the app’s 1.5bn users, the Facebook-owned company announced yesterday,

Hackers were able to place a Whatsapp call which would transmit the malicious code, allowing the cyber attackers to side step the app’s encryption.

“The attack has all the hallmarks of a private company reportedly that works with governments to deliver spyware that takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” WhatsApp said in a statement. “We have briefed a number of human rights organisations to share the information we can and to work with them to notify civil society.”

Read more: Whatsapp warns 1.5bn users of spyware hack discovery

A UK-based attorney who is involved in a lawsuit with NSO by Mexican journalists, government critics and a Saudi dissident was reportedly targeted in an attack just two days ago.

“Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” NSO Group told the FT. “NSO would not, or could not, use its technology in its own right to target any person or organization, including this individual.