Lawsuit filed against NSO Group and its parent company OSY Technologies for alleged surveillance and targeting of Apple iPhones with its Pegasus spyware.
Apple has sued the Israeli spyware maker at the centre of the Pegasus surveillance scandal, seeking to block NSO Group from ever again targeting the over one billion iPhones in circulation.
The suit from the Silicon Valley giant on Tuesday adds to the trouble facing embattled NSO, which was engulfed in controversy over reports that tens of thousands of activists, journalists and politicians were listed as potential targets of its Pegasus spyware.
"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," Apple said in a statement announcing the lawsuit filed in US federal court in California.
"Defendants are notorious hackers — amoral 21st-century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse," the firm wrote in its case.
2/ Apple's lawsuit, filed moments ago in Northern California hits NSO hard.— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) November 23, 2021
- Seeks to hold NSO & parent accountable for abuses
- ALSO Requests permanent injunction banning NSO from using Apple products.
Directly hits NSO's core development & biz activities. pic.twitter.com/9cPXhwHw3Z
US blacklisting of NSO
US authorities just weeks ago blacklisted NSO to restrict exports from American groups over allegations the Israel firm "enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression."
NSO has consistently denied any wrongdoing and insisted its software is intended for use by authorities only in fighting terrorism and other crimes.
"Pedophiles 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," the firm said in a statement to the AFP news agency.
Smartphones infected with Pegasus are essentially turned into pocket spying devices, allowing the user to read the target's messages, look through their photos, track their location and even turn on their camera without them knowing.
Hundreds of devices targeted
Apple says there are 1.65 billion active Apple devices worldwide, including over a billion iPhones.
The suit from Apple is not the first from a Big Tech firm –– Facebook sued NSO Group in 2019, accusing it of using WhatsApp to conduct cyberespionage on journalists, human rights activists, and others.
Apple's suit, filed in a California federal court, alleged approximately 1,400 devices were targeted with malicious software to steal valuable information from those using the messaging app.
"This can't be good news for NSO, which is reportedly in danger of default with over $500 million in debt, a recent leadership shakeup with their CEO, and France pulling out of a planned purchase after the US sanctions," said Jake Williams from cybersecurity firm BreachQuest.
"Mercenary spyware firms like NSO Group have facilitated some of the world's worst human rights abuses and acts of transnational repression while enriching themselves and their investors," said Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert.