Hanan Elatr is accusing the NSO Group of violating federal and Virginia hacking laws and negligence in selling its Pegasus spyware to hostile foreign actors.
Pegasus has drawn international attention due to reports of its use by the Israeli government on protesters, by authoritarian regimes on personal targets and even by the FBI.
The technology has been effectively banned in the United States since 2021.
A 2021 report found that UAE officials downloaded Pegasus onto Elatr’s phone while she was in custody in 2018.
Khashoggi, a fervent critic of the Saudi government, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. A U.S. intelligence report found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the killing.
Following Khashoggi’s killing, Elatr was put under house arrest in Dubai before going into hiding in the U.S.
Elatr’s suit says the spyware “caused her immense harm, both through the tragic loss of her husband and through her own loss of safety, privacy, and autonomy, as well as the loss of her financial stability and career.”
“She lives in a state of constant hyper-vigilance, unable to safely participate in social activities, constantly looking over her shoulder,” the suit states.
Cybersecurity experts discovered traces of NSO Group spyware on Elatr’s cellphone in December 2021, they told The Washington Post. Time stamps of activity lined up with periods when she was detained by UAE authorities.
“We found the smoking gun on her phone,” cybersecurity expert Bill Marczak told The Post.
NSO Group has also been sued by Facebook owner Meta and Apple over the Pegasus software’s use on their products online.