The troubles of Israeli technology company, NSO Group appear to be growing, as Apple sues NSO and its parent company, OSY Technologies. NSO is the developer of the malevolent software Pegasus, that has been found to have been used as a weapon against activists, political opponents and journalists, including murdered Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
An investigative journalism collaboration from leaked documents involving 17 media organisations, published in July 2021 by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International found that more than 50,000 phone records were selected as targets by clients of NSO Group for surveillance, including journalists.
Following the publications, the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) blacklisted NSO Group, and soon after the blacklist, NSO’s incoming CEO, Isaac Benbenisti, who had been co-president, resigned days after his appointment, and now Apple is suing the company for allegedly targeting iPhone users with a hacking tool.
Pegasus can independently infect both iPhone and Android devices and take control of microphones and cameras allowing operators to secretly extract messages, photos, emails and record calls.
NSO has denied all the allegations and insists it only sells its software to governments with good human rights records.
In the suit Apple filed in the US District Court of the Northern District of California, Apple said NSO’s tools were used in “Concerted efforts in 2021 to target and attack Apple customers,” and that “US citizens have been surveilled by NSO’s spyware on mobile devices that can and do cross international borders.”
Apple alleges that NSO Group created more than 100 fake Apple ID users’ credentials to carry out the attacks.
While Apple notes that its servers were not attacked, it indicated that the servers were misused and manipulated and used in attacks on Apple customers.
Ghana is a customer of NSO. The country has purchased the Pegasus equipment, an action that led to the trial and imprisonment of some former government officials involved in the transaction. It is however not known yet, if the software was ever tested in Ghana.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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