Apple is suing the Israeli military-grade spyware maker NSO Group, which has developed monitoring software for the phones of journalists, political dissidents and human rights activists to prevent them from using its products.
The iPhone maker filed a lawsuit in California federal court on Tuesday, accusing Israel’s largest cyber warfare company NSO of monitoring and targeting Apple users. It is seeking damages and orders to prevent NSO from using any Apple software, equipment or services.
NSO develops and sells spyware called Pegasus, which exploits vulnerabilities in iPhone and Android smartphones and allows the person deploying it to infiltrate target devices without being noticed.
Customers include government agencies, who purchase spyware as off-the-shelf software. The National Bureau of Statistics stated that it only sells weapons to the country to combat terrorism and serious crimes, and has been approved by the Israeli government.
According to an investigation by the newspaper consortium, Pegasus was found in July to have been used to attack smartphones belonging to dozens of journalists, human rights activists and politicians.
“State-funded participants like the NSO Group spent millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technology without effective accountability. This needs to change,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering In the statement“Apple devices are the safest consumer hardware on the market-but private companies that develop state-sponsored spyware have become more dangerous.”
NSO Group could not be reached immediately for comment.
Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that NSO and its parent company Q Cyber are not sovereign entities and therefore cannot be immune from an earlier lawsuit filed by Facebook, which accused NSO of treating its WhatsApp messaging service as users Target. .
The US government also announced this month that it has included NSO Group and rival Tel Aviv’s Candiru on the trade blacklist, which will restrict the US from exporting hardware and software to these companies, while cracking down on global hiring by hackers. industry.
In the complaint, Apple claimed that NSO is a group of “notorious” and “immoral” hackers who act as “mercenaries”, create network monitoring mechanisms, and “invite routine and blatant abuse” for commercial gain.
Apple accuses NSO of violating a number of federal and state laws, “this is due to their shocking, deliberate and consistent efforts to target and attack Apple customers in 2021.”
After researchers at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto exposed the vulnerabilities in Pegasus, Apple released an emergency software update in September.