Apple on Tuesday, 23 November, sued the Israeli spyware Pegasus maker NSO Group, seeking to block the cyberweapons maker from targeting the over one billion iPhones in circulation.
This comes in the wake of the Pegasus surveillance scandal, which began with reports that tens of thousands of activists, journalists, and politicians were listed as potential targets of its Pegasus spyware.
Earlier this month, United States (US) authorities had blacklisted NSO over allegations that the company "enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression,” news agency AFP reported.
The United States (US) Department of Commerce, had said in a statement that the NSO Group and Candiru, another Israeli company, were added to the Entity List “based on evidence that these entities developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, business people, activists, academics, and embassy workers,” Indian Express had reported.
Announcing the lawsuit filed in the US federal court in California, the Silicon Valley giant said in a statement,
"To prevent further abuse and harm to its users, Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services, or devices."
Further, Apple was quoted as saying, "Defendants are notorious hackers - amoral 21st century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse”.
Meanwhile, NSO has repeatedly maintained that it supplies its spyware only to governments and not individual entities. It has further denied any wrongdoing, saying that it is meant to be used by authorities only in fighting terrorism and other crimes.
NSO Group was quoted as saying, "Pedophiles and terrorists can freely operate in technological safe-havens, and we provide governments the lawful tools to fight it. NSO group will continue to advocate for the truth," AFP reported.
Apple stated that there are 1.65 billion active Apple devices worldwide, including over a billion iPhones.
Even Facebook had sued the Israeli company back in 2019, accusing it of using WhatsApp to surveil journalists, human rights activists, and others.
Back in September 2021, Apple had released a fix for a weakness in iPhones allowing NSO's spyware to infect devices without users even clicking on a malicious message or link.
Meanwhile, Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert was quoted as saying, "Mercenary spyware firms like NSO Group have facilitated some of the world's worst human rights abuses and acts of transnational repression, while enriching themselves and their investors."
(With inputs from AFP.)