Apple has now followed WhatsApp and Meta, formerly known as Facebook, in suing Pegasus spyware maker NSO Group.
Together with promising new information about how NSO Group infected targeted iPhones through a zero-click exploit that researchers later called ForcedEntry, Apple says it is seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, devices, or services.
Apple Sues NSO Group
The Senior VP of software engineering Craig Federighi did not mention sideloading this time but says in a statement that state-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability.
Federighi said that it needs to change. Apple devices are the most secure consumer hardware on the market, but private companies developing state-sponsored spyware have become even more dangerous, according to The Verge.
Apple and WhatsApp are not alone in their push against NSO Group in court. In 2020, tech companies including Microsoft and Google filed a brief supporting Facebook’s lawsuit.
Also Read: NSO Group Among Several Digital Spy Companies For Hire: The Biggest Customers Are Governments And Law Enforcement Agencies
Pegasus spyware of NSO Group is created to let governments remotely access a phone’s microphones, cameras, and other data on both iPhones and Androids, according to Apple’s press release.
It is also designed to be able to infect phones without requiring any action from the user and without leaving a trace, according to reports that came out earlier this year from a journalistic coalition called the Pegasus Project and Apple’s complaint.
Apple also cites reports that the spyware has been used against journalists, activists, and politicians, despite NSO’s claims that its governmental clients are forbidden from using the spyware against those sorts of targets.
It is understandable why Apple, the “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” company, would be upset about its devices and services being used to carry out what it calls human rights abuses.
Apple Breaks Down the Attack
Apple’s senior director of commercial litigation, Heather Grenier, says in a statement to The New York Times that the lawsuit is meant to be a stake in the ground, to send a clear signal that the company won’t allow its users to suffer this type of abuse.
Part of Apple’s argument laid out in the complaint is that NSO violated Apple’s terms of service because the group created more than one hundred Apple IDs to help it send data to targets.
In Apple’s complaint, it breaks down how the attack worked, using the Apple IDs it created, NSO would send data to a target through iMessage, after determining that they were using an iPhone, which was maliciously crafted to turn off the iPhone’s logging.
That would then let NSO secretly install the Pegasus spyware and control what was being collected on the phone. Apple says that the specific vulnerability that NSO was using was patched in iOS 14.8. The summary is that NSO was sending files that exploited a bug in how iMessage rendered GIFs and PDFs.
Apple said in its press release that, thanks to improvements it has made to iOS 15 security, it has not observed any evidence of successful remote attacks against devices running iOS 15 and later versions, according to CNBC.
When the Pegasus Project was publishing its reports in July, Amnesty International said that the latest version of iOS were susceptible to attack.
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Written by Sophie Webster
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