Apple is suing NSO Group Technologies, the Israeli military-grade spyware manufacturer that created surveillance software used to target the cellphones of journalists, political dissidents and human rights activists, for blocking the use of Apple products.
The iPhone maker’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in California, alleged that NSO, Israel’s largest known cyberwarfare company, had been spying on and targeting Apple users. It is seeking damages and an injunction prohibiting NSO from using any Apple software, device or services.
NSO develops and markets its spyware, known as Pegasus, that exploits vulnerabilities in iPhones and Android smartphones and allows those who use it to infiltrate a target’s device undetected.
Apple’s file contained new details about a recently patched vulnerability, nicknamed FORCEDENTRY, that was used by NSO customers for approximately eight months to deliver code to an unspecified number of targets.
NSO said its software had “saved thousands of lives. † † around the world” and that its technology helped governments “capture pedophiles and terrorists”.
The company has never provided any evidence to substantiate these claims, citing confidentiality agreements with the government entities NSO sells to with the approval of the Israeli authorities.
It recently called on the Israeli government to help lobby the White House to remove NSO from a US Commerce Department blacklist for selling a technology that has led to “transnational repression,” according to two people. who are familiar with the request.
It is not known whether the Israeli government has complied with that request.
The U.S. government announced this month that it had added Tel Aviv’s NSO Group and rival Candiru to its trade blacklist, which would restrict exports of U.S. hardware and software to the companies as it prevents global hacking-for-hire. industry takes a hard line. †
Apple’s lawsuit comes as Moody’s downgraded NSO’s debt by two steps to eight levels below investment grade, pointing to a high risk of default on $500 million in loans.
The company had fully taken out a bank loan, Moody’s said, and tight liquidity meant NSO could breach a covenant on its debt, leading to a default.
According to an investigation by a consortium of newspapers, it was revealed in July that Pegasus had been used to attack the smartphones of dozens of journalists, human rights activists and politicians.
“State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on advanced surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That has to change,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said in a statement. “Apple devices are the most secure consumer hardware on the market, but private companies that develop state-sponsored spyware have become even more dangerous.”
Apple’s complaint comes just weeks after the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that NSO and its parent company Q Cyber were not sovereign entities and therefore were not protected from a previous lawsuit filed by Facebook that accused NSO. from targeting users of its WhatsApp messaging service.
In the complaint, Apple NSO called a group of “notorious” and “amoral” hackers acting as “mercenaries” who create cybersurveillance machines “that routinely and blatantly invite abuse” for commercial gain.
The US company accused NSO of violating multiple federal and state laws “arising from their blatant, deliberate and concerted efforts in 2021 to attack and attack Apple customers.”
Apple released an emergency software update in September after a Pegasus vulnerability was discovered by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.
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