Tech giant Apple has moved legally to stop the usage of its products by the Israeli NSO group which is known for creating the infamous Pegasus spyware which has been used to spy on the online activities of dozens of politicians and activists across the world. In its suit, Apple has sought a permanent injunction to bar NSO from getting access to Apple products which the company says was used to exploit security vulnerabilities.
The USA has already blacklisted NSO and restricted American exports related to it amidst allegations that the company's spyware was used to conduct surveillance on and perpetuate repression on journalists, activists and politicians in dozens of countries. Apple has described NSO Group as "amoral mercenaries" who have created a "highly sophisticated cyber surveillance machinery" that "invites abuse" in its lawsuit.
Apple's complaint provides new information on NSO Group's 'FORCEDENTRY', an exploit for a now-patched vulnerability previously used to break into a victim's Apple device and install the latest version of NSO Group's spyware product, Pegasus. The exploit was originally identified by the Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto. The smartphone manufacturer said it is notifying the small number of users that it discovered may have been targeted
"State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering said in a statement on Tuesday.
In a statement to AFP, NSO Group has denied the allegations and said that their software was only intended to fight against terrorism and illegal activities, citing the example of paedophiles as having safe havens on the internet which could otherwise not be tracked. Pegasus software can infiltrate mobile phones, allowing the operator of the software to read messages, track location and essentially view all activity.
To further strengthen efforts against cyber attacks, Apple said it will be contributing $10 million, as well as any damages from the lawsuit, to organisations pursuing cyber-surveillance research and advocacy. Apple follows WhatsApp and its parent company Meta (formerly Facebook) in suing Pegasus spyware maker NSO Group.