Nov 23, 2021 - Technology

Apple sues Israeli NSO Group over spyware use

Inside of an apple store

Photo: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Apple filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Israeli cyber intelligence companies NSO Group and its parent company to "hold it accountable for the surveillance and targeting of Apple users," the company announced.

Details: Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using Apple devices, software, or services, per a press release.

  • Apple's legal complaint brings to light new information on how NSO Group used its Pegasus software to infect users' devices, and about the group's exploit of a now-patched security flaw first discovered by watchdog group Citizen Lab.
  • Apple has pledged to contribute $10 million, as well as any damages won in the lawsuit, to organizations that pursue "cybersurveillance research and advocacy."

State of play: The NSO Group's Pegasus software made news earlier this summer after an international consortium of investigative journalists revealed it had become a valuable tool for governments to spy on journalists, critics, and heads of state.

  • Earlier this month, the U.S. blacklisted NSO Group for engaging in activities contrary to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.

What they're saying: “State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, said in the press release.

  • “Apple devices are the most secure consumer hardware on the market — but private companies developing state-sponsored spyware have become even more dangerous," he added.
  • "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.”

The other side: “Thousands of lives were saved around the world thanks to NSO Group's technologies used by its customers," an NSO Group spokesperson told Axios

  • “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," they added.
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