Apple sues ‘amoral 21st century mercenaries’ NSO for infecting iPhones with Pegasus spyware
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Apple today sued NSO Group, which sells spyware to governments and other organizations, for infecting and snooping on people’s iPhones.
In a strongly worded filing [PDF] Apple described NSO as “amoral 21st century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse.” Cupertino wants damages and a ban on NSO interacting or interfering any further with Apple services and products.
The Israeli developer’s Pegasus spyware is repeatedly used by authoritarian and other hard-line states to infiltrate the phones of journalists, dissidents, academics, activists, and government officials to track their every waking move, Apple said.
The software, which can access the microphone, camera, messages, photos, and other sensitive data on a compromised handheld, breaks US national and California laws, it is claimed. NSO makes snoopware for Android as well as iOS, Apple was keen to remind us.
“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,” said Ivan Krstić, head of Apple Security Engineering and Architecture, in a statement. “We will continue to work tirelessly to protect our users from abusive state-sponsored actors like NSO Group.”
Apple cited this month’s sanctioning of four spyware vendors, including NSO, by the US Department of Commerce, as well as other crackdowns by Uncle Sam, to support its position that Pegasus is used to commit human-rights abuses. Apple argued that though NSO sells Pegasus to foreign governments and others, the developer is heavily involved in each deployment of the tracking software, and thus needs to be held responsible for the ultimate use of the code.
The iTitan also revealed new details about how Pegasus was able to earlier this year get onto a few Apple iPhones without any user interaction, and why the biz rushed out an emergency patch in September.
Between February and September, NSO used a zero-click technique to infect selected iOS devices, Cupertino claimed. The exploit, dubbed FORCEDENTRY by its discoverers at Canadian non-profit Citizen Lab, was able to get around security protections in iOS and install Pegasus without any user interaction required.
Apple said NSO operatives set up 100 Apple user accounts that were used to send “abusive data” – likely messages with a malicious code payload – to their selected victims. These communications disabled iOS logging procedures, we’re told, and installed Pegasus with no user interaction at all – one message incoming and you’re pwned.
While this is a clear violation of the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Apple alleged, it’s also a violation of the iGiant’s own terms and conditions, and amounts to breach of contract or unjust enrichment, since by signing up for the Apple accounts NSO’s goons agreed to abide by Apple’s T&Cs.
Apple is suing NSO for all revenues generated by Pegasus, along with compensation for its time plus punitive damages. It also wants a permanent injunction preventing NSO from accessing Apple services, software, and devices.
Any monies obtained from NSO will be donated to Citizen lab, Amnesty Tech, and other non-profits that investigate spyware; Apple has pledged an additional $10m to spur efforts in the field.
There may not be much left of NSO by the time Apple gets this done, however. The spyware maker is already being sued by Facebook for exploiting WhatsApp to install snoopware on victims’ devices, and earlier this month its appeal on the grounds of sovereign immunity (all of its sales are approved by the Israeli government) was turned down again. ®
via The Register – Security https://ift.tt/2XeTLgv
November 23, 2021 at 01:06PM