Apple filed a lawsuit against the Israeli spyware company NSO Group over the latter’s activities involving the sale of software to government agencies and law enforcement establishments that use the tools to hack iPhones.
Law enforcement hacks against iPhones have been faulted by globally-acclaimed civil rights groups considering the goals of the state-sponsored agencies that breach user phones using the NSO Group malware called Pegasus – it turns out that these hacks have been used to access the messages and communication details by journalists and human rights lawyers.
The success of the malware created by NSO experts is pegged on the fact that it leaves little trace of infection on a user’s device. Apart from the above-mentioned types of data that can be accessed by Pegasus, it turns out that browsing histories and emails can be accessed on infected devices.
Importantly, Apple has since announced that it had fixed the flaws that were being exploited by the Israeli spyware firm to access the private information located on iPhones using “zero-click” hacks involving delivery of the Pegasus malware via a text message.
The tech giant, which became the most valued company in the world by July 2020, is seeking a permanent injunction to stop NSO Group from using Apple software, services and devices. It is also seeking damages amounting to thousands of dollars.
A statement by Apple read:
“At Apple, we are always working to defend our users against even the most complex cyberattacks. The steps we’re taking today will send a clear message: In a free society, it is unacceptable to weaponize powerful state-sponsored spyware against those who seek to make the world a better place,” said Ivan Krstić, head of Apple Security Engineering and Architecture. “Our threat intelligence and engineering teams work around the clock to analyze new threats, rapidly patch vulnerabilities, and develop industry-leading new protections in our software and silicon. Apple runs one of the most sophisticated security engineering operations in the world, and we will continue to work tirelessly to protect our users from abusive state-sponsored actors like NSO Group.”
Allegations of Civil Rights Abuses
In July, NSO Group was used to target the phones belonging to two women that were reportedly close to the late Jamal Khashoggi, a media columnist who was brutally murdered at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.
An investigation into the case opened a can of worms about a conspiracy indicating the central role that was being played by the the Pegasus spyware licensed by NSO Group in successful hacks against 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists across the planet.