Israeli Company behind Pegasus Spyware Target of Apple Lawsuit

In an action that follows the criticism from other tech firms including Microsoft, Meta, Google-owner Alphabet, and Cisco Systems, the US tech giant Apple announced in a blog post on Tuesday that it is suing the Israeli spyware maker NSO Group and its parent company for targeting iPhone users with the Pegasus hacking spyware.

NSO Group was recently blacklisted by the Biden administration for acting contrary to the United States foreign policy and its national security interests. After NSO’s access to American investors was cut off and its credit rating was downgraded on Monday, the company is currently facing a $500 million default.

Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, pointed that NSO Group and similar state-sponsored actors spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability and noted that it has to change.

The tech giant is now seeking to permanently block the Israeli-based company from using any Apple device, software, or service over its Pegasus spyware that specifically targeted iPhones.

In addition to the court-imposed ban, Apple also seeks redress for the flagrant violations of US federal and state law by NSO Group, arising out of its efforts to target and attack Apple and its users.

The software allows operators to extract messages, photos, and emails, record calls, and secretly activate microphones and cameras on iPhones and Android devices it successfully infects.

Although NSO Group argued its tools were made to target terrorists and criminals and claimed it only supplied Pegasus to military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies from countries with good human-rights records, the software has allegedly also been used on activists, politicians, and journalists.

Placing the Israeli company on a trade blacklist earlier this month, US officials underscored that Pegasus enabled foreign authoritarian governments to conduct transnational repression “ targeting dissidents, journalists as well as activists”.

Apple’s lawsuit also provides new information on the manner in which NSO used an exploit called FORCEDENTRY to infect thousands of iPhones with its Pegasus spyware.

The existence of Pegasus was revealed earlier this year when the digital rights outfit at the University of Toronto in Canada, CitizenLab, revealed that NSO had exploited a vulnerability in Apple’s iOS operating system to install its spyware on thousands of iPhones around the world.

In addition to Israel, governments of Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, and the UAE have also been accused of its use – targeting dissidents, human rights activists, journalists, and politicians, among others.

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