Apple sues NSO Group for using Pegasus spyware on iPhones
Apple has filed a lawsuit against Israeli company NSO Group for its alleged misuse of its spyware, Pegasus, on iPhones.
Apple said in its statement that Pegasus has been used to “attack a small number of Apple users worldwide with malicious malware and spyware.”
Apple’s position as a leader in the global technology industry marks this lawsuit as significant, but the choice to target the maker of the spyware instead of the government clients that use the software is also remarkable – the Israeli company has sold its surveillance software to Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates, among others.
It is understood that Apple feels it is simpler and more politically acceptable to sue the private company involved, instead of the governments that are allegedly using the technology.
Pegasus is a spyware that, once installed, can extract contacts, call logs, photos, web browsing, and it can also hack into messaging apps such as iMessage, Gmail, Whatsapp, and Facebook.
Some exploits by Pegasus use zero-click, which means that they can infect the phone without any interaction from the victim, such as by sending a text to the victims phone.
Earlier this month, Facebook parent Meta also pursued a lawsuit against NSO Group for exploiting a bug in its Whatsapp messaging app to install malware allowing the surveillance of 1,400 people. The US also blacklisted the Israeli firm, prohibiting it from using American technology in its operations.
The recent lawsuit by Apple follows findings by the Citizen Lab that found Pegasus had used ‘FORCEDENTRY’ to exploit a now-patched vulnerability within Apple to access a victim’s Apple device.
Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi said: “State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change.”
Adding that “Apple devices are the most secure consumer hardware on the market – but private companies developing state-sponsored spyware have become even more dangerous. While these cybersecurity threats only impact a very small number of our customers, we take any attack on our users very seriously, and we’re constantly working to strengthen the security and privacy protections in iOS to keep all our users safe.”
A spokesperson for NSO Group defended the spyware: “Thousands of lives were saved around the world thanks to NSO Group’s technologies used by its customers.”
“Paedophiles and terrorists can freely operate in technological safe-havens, and we provide governments the lawful tools to fight it. NSO Group will continue to advocate for the truth.”
To strengthen efforts against cyber-attacks, Apple announced that it will be donating $10 million, and any damages seen from the lawsuit, to organisations researching cyber-surveillance.
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