Apple sues NSO Group over Pegasus Spyware

Close Up of Apple Logo on a See Through Glass Background

Tech giant Apple announced on Tuesday that it filed a lawsuit against NSO group for targeting its users with spyware. Apple said it wanted to hold the Israeli firm accountable for its actions and protect Apple users from further harm.

The company added that its complaint contains new details on how NSO Group infects devices with Pegasus Spyware. The firm used an exploit called FORCEDENTRY to exploit a vulnerability and break into Apple devices, and then install the spyware.

Apple gave credit to Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto, for identifying the exploit. It added that the vulnerability has since been patched.

About Israeli Firm NSO Group

NSO Group creates “sophisticated, state-sponsored surveillance technology,” such as spyware, which it sells to agencies representing national governments.

According to Apple, only a small number of its users are the targets of these attacks. Furthermore, the spyware in question, Pegasus, has a well-documented history of abuse. In the past, journalists, activists, academics, and rival politicians have all been targeted by Pegasus.

Details of Apple’s Lawsuit

Through the lawsuit, Apple is seeking a permanent injunction that would prevent NSO Group from using the company’s devices, software, or services. Apple also seeks damages of over $75,000 for the firm’s “flagrant violations of US federal and state law.”

As mentioned earlier, the complaint provides new information about the FORCEDENTRY exploit. Apple said that NSO Group’s products are used to conduct highly targeted cyberattacks. The attackers can access the camera, mic, and other sensitive data on victims’ devices.

In order to deliver the exploit, attackers created Apple IDs to send malicious data to their victims’ devices. This allowed NSO Group or its clients to “deliver and install Pegasus spyware without a victim’s knowledge.”

Apple added that iOS 15 includes a variety of new security protections, such as significant upgrades to its BlastDoor security mechanism to patch the vulnerability. The company also said that it has not found a successful remote attack against any of its devices running iOS 15, or later versions.

Statement from Apple

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, stressed the need for greater accountability for companies that make surveillance technologies. “State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change,” he said.

“Apple devices are the most secure consumer hardware on the market — but private companies developing state-sponsored spyware have become even more dangerous. While these cybersecurity threats only impact a very small number of our customers, we take any attack on our users very seriously, and we’re constantly working to strengthen the security and privacy protections in iOS to keep all our users safe,” Fedeighi added.

Technology policy researcher
Prateek is a technology policy researcher with a background in law. His areas of interest include data protection, privacy, digital currencies, and digital literacy. Outside of his research interests, Prateek is an avid reader and is engaged in projects on sustainable farming practices in India.