NEW DELHI: Apple is suing Israeli spyware company NSO Group and its parent company for allegedly using a hacking tool to target iPhone users.
The Pegasus malware from NSO can infect both iPhones and Android devices, allowing operators to retrieve messages, photographs, and emails, record phone calls, and discreetly activate microphones and cameras.
According to NSO Group, its tools are designed to target terrorists and criminals.
However, it is also said to have been used on activists, politicians, and journalists.
According to NSO Group, Pegasus is exclusively supplied to the military, law enforcement, and intelligence services in nations with good human-rights records.
However, US officials placed the business on a trade blacklist earlier this month, claiming that the software had “allowed foreign governments to conduct translational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists, and activists.”
Apple’s stance followed criticism from other technology companies such as Microsoft, Meta Platforms (previously Facebook), Google-owner Alphabet, and Cisco Systems.
Apple stated in a blog post announcing the California lawsuit that it wished to make NSO Group and its parent company OSY Technologies “accountable for the surveillance and targeting of Apple consumers.”
“To prevent further abuse and harm to its users, Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services, or devices,” it said.
Apple claimed in its complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, that NSO’s tools were used in “coordinated 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.”
Apple claimed that the NSO group established over 100 bogus Apple ID user credentials in order to carry out its assaults.
The tech behemoth stated that its systems were not hacked, but that NSO abused and exploited the infrastructure in order to deliver the attacks on Apple consumers.
Apple also claimed that NSO Group was actively involved in the spyware’s consultancy services, but NSO claims that it only sells its products to clients.
Apple claimed it was obliged to engage in a never-ending arms race with NSO because the Israeli company was “constantly updating its viruses and exploits to circumvent Apple’s own security improvements.”
The iPhone maker stated that it will donate $10 million, as well as any damages won in the complaint, to cyber surveillance research organisations such as Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto group that revealed NSO’s attacks.
In response, NSO Group stated, “Thousands of lives have been saved around the world as a result of NSO Group’s technology employed by its clients.”
“Paedophiles and terrorists can operate freely in technical safe-havens, and we give governments with legal means to combat [them].”
“The NSO group will continue to fight for the truth.”
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