Security Experts:

Apple Slaps Lawsuit on NSO Group Over Pegasus iOS Exploitation

The troubles for Israeli surveillance software maker NSO Group continue to pile up with news that Apple has filed suit to ban the company from using its software, services or devices.

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in Northern California, seeks to hold NSO Group accountable for hacking into Apple’s iOS mobile platform with so-called zero-click exploits to spy on researchers, journalists, activists, dissidents, academics, and government officials.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple also announced it would contribute $10 million to researchers and academic outfits exposing cyber-surveillance abuses.

“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,” Apple said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit filing.

Apple accused NSO Group of creating “sophisticated, state-sponsored surveillance technology that allows its highly targeted spyware to surveil its victims.” 

[ READ: Apple Ships Urgent Patch for FORCEDENTRY Zero-Days ]

“These attacks are only aimed at a very small number of users, and they impact people across multiple platforms, including iOS and Android. Researchers and journalists have publicly documented a history of this spyware being abused to target journalists, activists, dissidents, academics, and government officials,” Apple added.

The company said its legal complaint provides new information on NSO Group’s FORCEDENTRY, the iOS exploit that was caught by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab installing the Pegasus spyware tool.

Apple said Pegasus was then used to attack a small number of Apple users worldwide with dangerous malware that hijacked sensitive data from iPhone and Android devices.   Apple accused NSO Group’s attack teams of creating Apple IDs to send malicious data to a victim’s device --  allowing NSO Group or its clients to deliver and install Pegasus spyware without a victim’s knowledge.  

Apple also announced it would be contributing $10 million, as well as any damages from the lawsuit, to organizations pursuing cyber-surveillance research and advocacy.  The company said it would also support Citizen Lab with pro-bono technical, threat intelligence, and engineering assistance to help with their anti-surveillance research.

Related: Apple Ships Urgent Patch for FORCEDENTRY Zero-Days

Related: New iOS Zero-Click Exploit Defeats Apple 'BlastDoor' Sandbox

Related: Apple Adds 'BlastDoor' to Secure iPhones From Zero-Click Attacks

Related: Secretive Israeli Exploit Company Behind Wave of Zero-Day Exploits

view counter
Ryan Naraine is Editor-at-Large at SecurityWeek and host of the popular Security Conversations podcast series. He is a journalist and cybersecurity strategist with more than 20 years experience covering IT security and technology trends. Ryan has built security engagement programs at major global brands, including Intel Corp., Bishop Fox and Kaspersky GReAT. He is a co-founder of Threatpost and the global SAS conference series. Ryan's career as a journalist includes bylines at major technology publications including Ziff Davis eWEEK, CBS Interactive's ZDNet, PCMag and PC World. Ryan is a director of the Security Tinkerers non-profit, and a regular speaker at security conferences around the world. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanaraine.