Apple sues NSO Group over spyware claims

Apple has filed a lawsuit against the Israeli NSO Group holding it accountable for circumventing iPhone security mechanisms in order to surveil Apple users via its Pegasus spyware.

NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware came into limelight earlier this year in July, when Amnesty International revealed that it was used to spy on journalists and human rights activists worldwide. 

This was followed by a further revelation by cybersecurity threat researchers at Citizen Lab who found evidence of surveillance on iPhone 12 Pro’s of nine Bahraini activists, through an exploit that evaded the latest security protections in iOS 14 known as BlastDoor

“State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.

Cyber-surveillance research

Citizen Lab had accused the NSO Group of using two zero-click iMessage exploits, including a new BlastDoor exploit that the researchers have dubbed FORCEDENTRY. Apple says it has shared new information on this now-patched exploit in its legal complaint. 

In its release, Apple has commended the efforts of groups like the Citizen Lab and Amnesty Tech “for their groundbreaking work to identify cyber-surveillance abuses and help protect victims.”

Apple has decided to provide technical, threat intelligence, and engineering assistance to the Citizen Lab researchers pro-bono, and has promised to offer the same assistance to other organizations doing critical work in this space. 

In fact, the company has gone to the extent of contributing $10 million, as well as all the damages awarded from the lawsuit, to supporting organizations involved in the advocacy and research of cyber-surveillance abuses.

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