RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Tech giant Apple announced Tuesday that it has filed a lawsuit against Israeli company NSO Group in a bid to stop the world’s most famous hired hacker company from harming. Apple products, such as the iPhone.
Apple said in the lawsuit filed in federal court in California that NSO Group employees are “amoral mercenaries of the 21st century who have created a highly sophisticated cyber surveillance machine that invites flagrant and routine abuse.” Apple added that NSO Group’s spyware, called Pegasus, was used to attack a small number of Apple users around the world.
“State-sponsored actors, like the NSO Group, spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without being effectively held accountable. That needs to change, ”said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering.
NSO Group has broadly denied any wrongdoing and claims that governments have used its products to save lives.
“Pedophiles and terrorists can operate freely in technological havens, and we provide governments with the legal tools to combat them. NSO Group will continue to advocate for the truth,” the company said in a statement.
The lawsuit was the latest attack on the hacking company, which the US Department of Commerce recently added to a blacklist. The social media giant Facebook also sued the company.
However, security researchers have discovered that the Pegasus program has been used around the world to sneakily hack into the phones of human rights activists, journalists, and even members of the Catholic Church.
Pegasus sneaks into phones to access personal and location data and controls device cameras and microphones without being detected. Researchers have found several examples of NSO Group tools that use so-called “zero click” attacks, which infect cell phones without any user interaction.
The administration of President Joe Biden announced this month that the NSO Group and another Israeli cybersecurity firm called Candiru would be added to the “entity list,” limiting their access to US components and technology by requiring a government permit for those. exports.
Also this month, security investigators revealed that Pegasus spyware was detected on the cell phones of six Palestinian human rights activists. In addition, Mexican authorities recently announced that they have arrested a businessman accused of using the program to spy on a journalist.
Facebook sued NSO Group for using a similar attack that allegedly allowed it to infiltrate WhatsApp, its popular encrypted message app.
A federal appeals court in the United States issued a ruling this month rejecting an attempt by the NSO Group to dismiss the lawsuit.
Apple also announced a $ 10 million donation on Tuesday, as well as any compensation obtained in the lawsuit against NSO Group, to cyber surveillance investigators and activists.