In a statement Tuesday, NSO Group did not address the specifics of the lawsuit and instead said the firm’s technology saves lives.
NSO Group provides “lawful tools” to help governments fight pedophiles and terrorists, the firm said.
While NSO Group has long maintained that it only sells its software to authorized users for law enforcement and counterterrorism purposes, researchers have for years uncovered evidence that Pegasus has been used to surveil dissidents and human rights activists.
The lawsuit is the latest setback for NSO Group, which cybersecurity analysts and human rights activists have long accused of doing business with repressive governments. The firm’s easy-to-use spyware is capable of eavesdropping on a phone’s communications and accessing other sensitive data on the device, according to researchers.
In a statement at the time, NSO Group said it was “dismayed by the decision given that our technologies support US national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime, and thus we will advocate for this decision to be reversed.”
“We look forward to presenting the full information regarding how we have the world’s most rigorous compliance and human rights programs that are based [on] the American values we deeply share,” according to the statement, “which already resulted in multiple terminations of contacts [sic] with government agencies that misused our products.”
Candiru could not be reached for comment at the time.
Apple is at least the second major US tech firm to sue NSO Group. Facebook (now known as Meta) in 2019 sued NSO Group for allegedly facilitating the breach of 1,400 phones running the WhatsApp messaging application.
NSO Group has denied the allegations made by Facebook, and tried to block the case from moving forward. But a US appeals court this month ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.
Apple said it would contribute $10 million, plus any damages from the lawsuit, to “organizations pursuing cybersurveillance research and advocacy.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages from NSO Group, as well as “compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial.”
NSO Group is just one of several firms that sell specialized hacking tools to break into different types of mobile phones.
In its lawsuit, Apple’s lawyers reflected on what it called a “continual arms race” between Apple engineers and NSO Group’s code-writers.
“Even as Apple develops solutions and enhances the security of its devices, Defendants are constantly updating their malware and exploits to overcome Apple’s own security upgrades,” the complaint states.