Apple Inc. has been the latest tech giant to launch a lawsuit against Israeli NSO and its parent company.
On 24 November, Apple announced that it has launched a lawsuit against Israeli spyware company NSO group for alleged surveillance and targeting US Apple users with its Pegasus software – almost a year after other tech giants such as Microsoft and Google joined Facebook’s legal battle against the hacking company.
Although according to NSO its hacking tool is a product sold to national governments to assist the fight against terrorists and track down dangerous criminals, researchers at Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, as well as an investigation by media outlets coordinated by French group Forbidden Stories found that its spyware had been extensively used to target journalists, academics and dissidents in more than ten countries.
Apple alleged that NSO Group created more than 100 fake Apple ID user credentials to carry out its attacks. Although Apple said that its servers were not technically speaking hacked by NSO, they did misuse and manipulate its servers to deliver attacks on Apple users. Investigations have also proved that in some cases it was a vulnerability in the company’s iMessage feature that Pegasus could penetrate to turn smartphones’ cameras and microphones into spyware. In the lawsuit, Apple is also seeking to ban NSO Group from using any of its proprietary software, services or devices to prevent further abuse.
Meanwhile, NSO claimed in a statement that “thousands of lives” have been saved through the use of its tools. “Paedophiles and terrorists can freely operate in technological safe-havens, and we provide governments the lawful tools to fight it.”
Although there are several other companies providing software similar to Pegasus, NSO’s changing fortunes – Moody’s has cut the company’s rating by eight levels below investment grade – may serve as a deterrent against unfettered selling of hacking tools, as well as an incentive to regulate the market.