The lawsuit is the second of its kind by a private company after Facebook sued the company in 2019 for targeting its users on WhatsApp, and represents a growing number of US tech companies attempting to curb the use of Israeli spyware across their platforms.
“State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said in a statement.
“While these cybersecurity threats only impact a very small number of our customers, we take any attack on our users very seriously, and we’re constantly working to strengthen the security and privacy protections in iOS to keep all our users safe.”
In addition to holding it accountable for targeting Apple devices, the California-based tech giant also wants to permanently prevent NSO from using any Apple software, services or devices.
Such a move could potentially render the company’s Pegasus spyware product worthless, given that much of its business is to give clients full access to a user’s Apple or Android smartphone.
“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 Krstic, the head of Apple security engineering and architecture.
In response to the lawsuit, an NSO spokesperson told Middle East Eye that “thousands of lives were saved around the world thanks to NSO Group’s technologies used by its customers”.
“Pedophiles and terrorists can freely operate in technological safe-havens, and we provide governments the lawful tools to fight it. NSO group will continue to advocate for the truth,” they added.
After filing its lawsuit, Apple also announced that it would provide assistance, as well as donate $10m, to Canada-based Citizen Lab and other groups working on combating digital surveillance.