Apple has filed a lawsuit against the Israeli firm NSO Group that sells software to government agencies and law enforcement that enables them to hack iPhones. The smartphone giant is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services or devices.
Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, said state-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. “That needs to change. Apple devices are the most secure consumer hardware on the market but private companies developing state-sponsored spyware have become even more dangerous. While these cyber security threats only impact a very small number of our customers, we take any attack on our users very seriously, and we are constantly working to strengthen the security and privacy protections in iOS to keep all our users safe.”
Ivan Krstić, head of Apple Security Engineering and Architecture, said Apple is always working to defend its users against even the most complex cyber-attacks. “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,” he said. “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.”
The spyware, as per an official statement by Apple, was used to attack a small number of Apple users worldwide with dangerous malware and spyware. Apple’s lawsuit seeks to ban NSO Group from further harming individuals by using Apple’s products and services. The lawsuit also seeks redress for NSO Group’s flagrant violations of US federal and state law, arising out of its efforts to target and attack Apple and its users. NSO Group and its clients devote the immense resources and capabilities of nation-states to conduct highly targeted cyberattacks, allowing them to access the microphone, camera, and other sensitive data on Apple and Android devices. To deliver FORCEDENTRY to Apple devices, attackers created 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. Though misused to deliver FORCEDENTRY, Apple servers were not hacked or compromised in the attacks.
It should be noted that Apple makes the most secure mobile devices on the market, and constantly invests in strengthening privacy and security protections for its users. For example, researchers have found that other mobile platforms have 15 times more malware infections than iPhone, and a recent study showed that less than 2 percent of mobile malware targets iOS devices.
iOS 15 includes a number of new security protections, including significant upgrades to the BlastDoor security mechanism. While NSO Group spyware continues to evolve, Apple has not observed any evidence of successful remote attacks against devices running iOS 15 and later versions. Apple urges all users to update their iPhone and always use the latest software.
Furthermore, Apple commends groups like the Citizen Lab and Amnesty Tech for their groundbreaking work to identify cyber surveillance abuses and help protect victims.