Apple lawsuit accuses NSO Group of using its Pegasus spyware to hack devices and enable human rights violations.
Apple Inc. has filed a lawsuit in the United States against the Israeli firm NSO Group, which accuses the company of Pegasus spyware to hack the devices of Apple users.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. federal court, Apple called NSO “amoral 21st-century mercenaries” who used cyber-surveillance technology to make human rights violations possible.
The Israeli firm provoked anger earlier this year after an examination revealed by international media that Pegasus has been used by security forces and authoritarian governments against journalists and activists in various countries.
“State-sponsored actors such as the NSO group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technology without effective liability. That needs to change, “said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, in a statement.
Apple’s lawsuit comes weeks after a US appeal court decided that WhatsApp can pursue its own lawsuit against NSO, which rejects the Israeli private company’s attempt to claim sovereign immunity because its clients are state agencies.
In early November, the Biden administration also sanctions imposed against the NSO group for what he called for enabling “transnational oppression”.
The Israeli firm has insisted that its products are designed to track down criminals and “terrorists”, and governments accused of using the company’s spyware against human rights defenders have also denied allegations of wrongdoing.
NSO did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on Tuesday.
Apple’s lawsuit seeks unspecified financial compensation, as well as a court order to permanently ban NSO from using Apple servers and devices and to compel the company to delete previously hacked data.
“NSO’s malicious activities exploited Apple’s products, injured Apple’s users and damaged Apple’s business and goodwill,” the complaint reads.
“NSO’s malicious products and services also required Apple to spend thousands of hours investigating the attacks, identifying the damage, diagnosing the extent of the impact and exploitation, and developing and deploying the necessary repairs and patches.”
Apple has announced a patch that it believes will protect users from vulnerabilities previously exploited by NSO.
The Israeli company said its spyware could not affect US users, but Apple stressed that US citizens’ mobile devices, which could “cross international borders and cross”, had been hacked.
It cites recent findings that Pegasus spyware was found on the phones of ses Palestinian human rights activists, including one U.S. citizen.
In the same news release announcing the lawsuit, Apple said it would contribute $ 10 million as well as possible damages from the lawsuit to groups working to expose cyber surveillance activities.
Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, which helped reveal some of NSO’s practices, Apple praised for its lawsuit.
“Rental spyware firms such as NSO Group have facilitated some of the world’s worst human rights abuses and acts of transnational oppression, while enriching themselves and their investors,” Deibert said in a statement released by Apple.