Apple sues Israeli spyware developer

Apple has filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, the Israeli spyware developer blacklisted by the Biden administration earlier this month, accusing the firm of targeting and surveilling Apple users.

The suit, filed Tuesday in a California federal court, seeks to permanently prevent NSO Group from using the Silicon Valley giant’s software, services or devices.

That could seriously weaken the effectiveness of NSO Group’s spyware product, Pegasus. 

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

NSO has been accused of providing the Pegasus spyware to foreign governments that have used it to target the phones of thousands of dissidents, journalists and human rights advocates.

Apple’s suit seeks unspecified damages, which the company said it hopes to donate to organizations focused on exposing spyware.

The Hill has reached out to NSO Group for comment on the suit.

The Commerce Department earlier this month added NSO Group to its “entity list” — effectively a blacklist designation meaning that no American organization can work with it — due to concerns about the firm’s involvement in malicious cyber activity. 

Facebook previously sued NSO Group in 2019 over allegations that its spyware had used the platform to target more than 1,400 WhatsApp users in almost two dozen countries.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected NSO Group’s motion to dismiss that lawsuit earlier this month.