Apple announced on Tuesday that they have filed a lawsuit against Israel’s NSO Group for using its Pegasus malware to attack Apple devices, the latest move in a growing global fight to stop covert surveillance of smartphone users.
The suit, which seeks an injunction to prevent NSO from using any Apple software, service, or device, follows the Washington Post’s and 16 other news organisations’ publication of the Pegasus Project in July, which detailed the use of Pegasus in dozens of attacks against journalists, human rights workers, and political activists in countries worldwide.
Apple argues in the lawsuit that NSOs “notorious hackers” are “amoral 21st century mercenaries who have constructed extremely sophisticated cyber-surveillance gear that enables routine and egregious abuse.”
What does the NSO have to say?
Breaking into a smartphone allows police and spies to gather a vast amount of information about the people they are pursuing. NSO claims that Pegasus is licenced across the globe to dozens of military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies but only after they have been thoroughly vetted.
“Through the application of NSO Group’s technology by its clients, thousands of lives have been saved throughout the world,” NSO spokesman Oded Hershkovitz said in a statement on Tuesday. “Terrorists can operate freely in technology safe havens, and we give governments the legal tools they need to combat it. The NSO will continue to fight for the truth.”
Why Apple are taking the legal move
Apple believes that using exploits to break into its iPhones the NSO Group is using Pegasus to illegally “hack for profit”. Apple’s legal action follows a similar lawsuit filed in 2019 by the Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp, which accused NSO of spying on 1,400 of its users. A federal appeals court in the United States ruled earlier this month that the lawsuit can proceed.
Those working to reduce the use of spyware applauded the increased use of lawsuits and other legal tools to combat NSO and other similar companies, describing such actions as critical in confronting an industry capable of inventing a seemingly endless number of new ways to attack phones and other computerised devices. Given the expansive and ever-changing nature of software, experts say defenders — even at huge technology corporations — are doomed to lose this cat-and-mouse battle.
It looks like this is the only start of it – Apple will continue to fight hard to protect its reputation as a trusted and safe technology provider.
What Apples Vice President of Software Engineering has to say:
“State-sponsored actors, such as the NSO Group, spend millions of dollars on advanced surveillance technologies without being held accountable.” In a blog post announcing the case, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, wrote, “That needs to change.”
“While Apple gadgets remain the safest consumer electronics on the market,” he added, “private corporations generating state-sponsored malware have grown much more deadly. While these cybersecurity attacks affect a small percentage of our customers, we take any assault on our users seriously, and we’re continually working to improve iOS’ security and privacy measures to keep all of our users secure.”
Would you like to learn more about Pegasus?
This week, before the legal case was announced, Salt’s CEO hosted a webinar discussing the rise of Pegasus and the challenge of securing the modern workplace. Our webinar is free to download for anyone who would like more detail on the history of Pegasus. Joe answers questions and discusses the impact of Pegasus on individuals as well as including recommendations on how to protect yourself against these mobile dangers and zero-day assaults.
To discuss this article in greater detail with the team, or to sign up for a free trial of Salt Communications contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at saltcommunications.com.
About Salt Communications
Salt Communications is a multi-award winning cyber security company providing a fully enterprise-managed software solution giving absolute privacy in mobile communications. It is easy to deploy and uses multi-layered encryption techniques to meet the highest of security standards. Salt Communications offers ‘Peace of Mind’ for Organisations who value their privacy, by giving them complete control and secure communications, to protect their trusted relationships and stay safe. Salt Communications is headquartered in Belfast, N. Ireland, for more information visit Salt Communications.