The spyware known as “Pegasus” is a highly sophisticated tool that somehow breaks through encryption via a messaging application. And many companies have pushed back against its parent company – NSO Group Technologies. Last fall, Apple and NSO had a public legal battle. Apple contended NSO was developing spyware specifically for use against Apple products.

But Apple isn’t the only one pushing back. WhatsApp has also sued NSO under the same cause of action, and the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security had added NSO to their bad boy list.

Events Since the Original Stand Against Pegasus

Since that time, there have been several noteworthy items. Congress became involved as it inquired into allegations made the FBI and others who were using Pegasus to spy on other countries and even U.S. citizens. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed a FOIA request and subsequent Motion for Injunctive Relief against various federal agencies requesting records of the government’s use of Pegasus, which according to documents were marked by the name Phantom in the United States.

The CEO of NSO resigned this past summer. The case itself is on hold until the Supreme Court reviews (or decides if it wants to review) several legal issues that had been previously ruled on, namely whether the United States courts had jurisdiction over the Israeli based company.

Pegasus Spyware Victim

The most recent tangential event in this matter came last week when Francesco Corallo, allegedly a victim to the Pegasus spyware, filed suit against both NSO and Apple in United States District Court, Northern District of California under multiple authorities of law, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and California Data Protection Codes.

Corallo is a native of Italy and a naturalized citizen of The Netherlands, who currently resides in Sint Maarten in the Caribbean. The bulk of the allegations against NSO is that they contracted with the governments of Italy and The Netherlands to use Pegasus to invade Corallo’s privacy for “political purposes”, which is verified by forensic evidence. Corallo, known as “King of The Slots” owns casinos in the Caribbean and has a sordid past, being convicted and constantly under watch for alleged involvement in organized and white-collar crime. He originally sued NSO in New Jersey this past winter but voluntarily dismissed the complaint in May. In the New Jersey suit, he did not name Apple as a defendant. Maybe he decided he wanted a bite of the Apple (groan). He has pursued similar actions against governments from countries he is a citizen of as well in various foreign jurisdictions.

Future Litigation?

I am not sure if Corallo will be a trendsetter in personal litigation against Apple and NSO or if, given his background and familiarity with the court systems, he is just an outlier. I thought by Apple suing NSO last November, it may have stemmed the tide of litigation against them by Plaintiffs who were victims of Pegasus. That still may be the case but it will be hard to tell until the Supreme Court decides what to do with the case (if anything). Apparently, Corallo did not want to wait, and proceeded in the same court that the Apple vs NSO case is being heard.

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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.

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