In the suit, Apple called Pegasus developer “notorious hackers—amoral 21st-century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse.”
Consumer electronics maker Apple has filed a lawsuit to prevent NSO Group, the Israeli spyware developer, from targeting over a billion iPhones in circulation on Tuesday.
The lawsuit adds to the trouble of the Israeli company embroiled in a controversy over reports from tens of thousands of journalists and activists.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) first broke the news of phones being tracked using Pegasus software. A few weeks ago, the USA had blacklisted NSO, restricting exports from American companies over claims that they “enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression.”
The lawsuit by Apple
Apple called NSO Group “notorious hackers—amoral 21st-century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse” in the suit filed in the USA.
They have accused the group of developing products with malicious software that were used to attack users for commercial gains. They have claimed that NSO has enabled their customers, who were democratically elected governments, to abuse those products and target government officials, activists, business people and even US citizens. “State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change,” said senior vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi.
The iPhone makers have also sought a permanent injunction to ban the group from using any Apple devices while announcing the lawsuit filed in the US Federal Court. “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,” read the statement.
Statement from NSO Group
The Israeli firm has consistently denied any wrongdoings and said that its software is intended only for use by a government against terrorism and other crimes. “Pedophiles and terrorists can freely operate in technological safe-havens, and we provide governments with the lawful tools to fight it. NSO Group will continue to advocate for the truth,” NSO said in a statement.
Apart from Apple, social media firm Facebook had sued NSO Group in 2019. Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook has accused the spyware company of carrying out cyber espionage through WhatsApp against human rights activists and others.
The lawsuit filed in the federal court by Apple alleges that around 1400 devices were compromised with Pegasus to steal valuable information.
With the Pegasus-infected smartphones, the hacker can view photos, track location, and even turn on the camera without the target’s knowledge. The company is reportedly in danger of defaulting with over $500 million in debt as France pulled out of a planned purchase after the US sanctioning.