Apple is suing NSO Group, the Israeli military-grade spyware maker that created surveillance software used to target the phones of journalists, political dissidents and human rights activists, to prevent it from using its products.
The iPhone maker’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in California on Tuesday, claims NSO, the largest known Israeli cyber warfare company, spied on and targeted Apple users. It claims damages as well as an order preventing NSO from using any Apple software, device or services.
NSO develops and sells its spyware, known as Pegasus, which exploits vulnerabilities in iPhones and Android smartphones and allows those who deploy it to infiltrate a target’s device unnoticed.
Clients include government agencies, which purchase the spyware as off-the-shelf software. NSO said it was selling its weapons only to nations to fight terrorism and serious crime, and with the approval of the Israeli government.
Pegasus was revealed was used in July to target smartphones belonging to dozens of journalists, human rights activists and politicians, according to an investigation by a consortium of newspapers.
“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 devices are the safest consumer hardware on the market – but private companies developing state-sponsored spyware have become even more dangerous.”
NSO Group could not be immediately reached for comment.
Apple’s complaint comes just weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that NSO and its parent company Q Cyber were not sovereign entities and therefore were not protected from an earlier lawsuit brought by Facebook and accused NSO of it. that they are not targeting users of its WhatsApp messaging service. .
The US government too announced this month that it has added the NSO group and rival Candiru to a trading blacklist in Tel Aviv, which will restrict the export of US hardware and software to the companies as it hits the global hack-for-rent industry.
In the complaint, Apple NSO named a group of “infamous” and “amoral” hackers who act as “mercenaries” who create cyber surveillance machinery “that invites routine and blatant abuse” for commercial gain.
Apple has accused NSO of violating several federal and state laws “arising from their heinous, deliberate and concerted efforts in 2021 to target and attack Apple customers”.
Apple has issued a emergency software update in September after a Pegasus vulnerability was exposed by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.