Apple has filed a lawsuit against Israeli spyware business NSO Group and its parent company for allegedly using a hacking tool to target iPhone users.
The Pegasus software from NSO can infect both iPhones and Android devices, giving operators access to texts, images, and emails, as well as record calls and discreetly activate microphones and cameras.
The NSO Group claims that its technologies are designed to track out terrorists and criminals.
However, it has been claimed that it has been used on activists, politicians, and journalists.
Pegasus is exclusively supplied to military, law enforcement, and intelligence organizations from nations with excellent human-rights histories, according to NSO Group.
However, the firm was placed on a trade blacklist by US officials earlier this month, claiming that the software has “allowed foreign governments to undertake transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists, and activists.”
Apple’s decision comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed by WhatsApp in 2019 that is still pending in a US court.
NSO Group “built its virus in order to access messages and other communications once they were encrypted on target devices,” according to WhatsApp’s initial court filing.
Microsoft, Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), Google’s parent company Alphabet, and Cisco Systems have all previously chastised NSO.
Apple said it wants to make NSO Group and its parent firm OSY Technologies “accountable for the monitoring and targeting of Apple consumers” in a blog post announcing the California case.
“To avoid additional misuse and injury to Apple customers,” it stated, “Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting NSO Group from utilizing any Apple software, services, or devices.”
Apple claims that NSO’s tools were used in “concerted efforts in 2021 to target and attack Apple customers” and that “US citizens have been surveilled by NSO’s spyware on mobile devices that can and do cross international borders,” according to its complaint filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
To carry out its assaults, the NSO gang allegedly established over 100 false Apple ID user credentials, according to Apple.
The tech company said that its systems had not been hacked, but that NSO had abused and exploited them to launch attacks against Apple users.
Apple also claimed that NSO Group was actively involved in delivering malware consultancy services, although NSO claims that it only sells its products to customers.
Apple said it was compelled to engage in a never-ending arms race with NSO, which was “constantly upgrading its malware and vulnerabilities to circumvent Apple’s own security improvements,” according to the company.
The iPhone manufacturer said that Apple will contribute $10 million to cybersurveillance research groups, including Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, which was the first to detect NSO’s assaults.
“Thousands of lives have been saved throughout the world owing to NSO Group’s solutions employed by its clients,” NSO Group said.
“Paedophiles and terrorists may operate freely in technical safe havens, and we equip countries with the legal tools they need to combat [them].”
“The NSO group will keep fighting for the truth.”