Apple on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Israeli technology company NSO group, the manufacturer of the Pegasus spyware, for allegedly targeting iPhone users.
The software has been allegedly used to spy on heads of states, activists and journalists in several countries, including India. This was revealed in July by a global investigation involving 17 news organisations.
Apple said in a press note that Pegasus was used to target a small number of its users worldwide.
“Apple’s legal complaint provides new information on NSO Group’s FORCEDENTRY, an exploit for a now-patched vulnerability previously used to break into a victim’s Apple device and install the latest version of NSO Group’s spyware product, Pegasus,” it said. “The exploit was originally identified by the Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto.”
The American technology giant alleged that NSO Group and its clients conducted highly-targeted cyberattacks, allowing them access to cameras, microphones, sensitive data on Apple and Android devices.
In its lawsuit, Apple described NSO Group as “notorious hackers”, AFP reported. “[They are] amoral 21st century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse,” it added.
Apple said its lawsuit seeks to stop NSO Group from “further harming individuals by using Apple’s products and services”.
“The lawsuit also seeks redress for NSO Group’s flagrant violations of US federal and state law, arising out of its efforts to target and attack Apple and its users,” the company added.
Apple said it is also seeking to ban NSO Group from using any of its devices or software.
This is not the first time that a big tech firm has filed a lawsuit against NSO Group. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, had in 2019 sued the Israeli company for the “unlawful access and use” of the platform’s computers.
The NSO Group had allegedly developed a malware to gain access to messages and other communications after they were decrypted on the devices of those targeted. This also allowed hackers to bypass WhatsApp’s encryption.
WhatsApp had revealed that Indian journalists and human rights activists were targets of surveillance through the use of Israel firm’s spyware.
In the past, the NSO Group has been referred to as a “cyber arms dealer”, according to BBC.