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US tech company sues Israeli firm NSO over spying software

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This AFP file studio photographic illustration shows a smartphone with the website of Israel's NSO Group which features 'Pegasus' spyware, on display in Paris on July 21, 2021.

American tech company Apple has file a lawsuit against Israeli spyware developer NSO Group over surveillance of its users “without effective accountability.”

Filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals federal court in San Francisco, California, the lawsuit seeks to permanently prevent NSO Group from using Apple software, services or devices.

The Silicon Valley giant’s moves follows the blacklisting of the company by administration of US President Joe Biden.

“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. “That needs to change.”

‘Facilitating worst human rights abuses’

No American organization is allowed to work with NSO Group since it was added to the so-called “entity list” by the US Commerce Department earlier this month.

The notorious Israeli firm was sued by Facebook in 2019 over its surveillance on more than 1,400 WhatsApp users.

Smartphones infected with Pegasus can be turned to a listening device. In addition, the spyware allows the user to read the target's messages, look through their photos, track their location and even turn on their camera without them knowing.

“Apple is notifying the small number of users that it discovered may have been targeted by FORCEDENTRY. Any time Apple discovers activity consistent with a state-sponsored spyware attack, Apple will notify the affected users in accordance with industry best practices,” the company said in a post on its website.

The spyware has drawn sharp criticism from several human rights watchdogs and organizations as it was used to target human rights activists, journalists, lawyers and leading political figures across the globe without requiring any action from the users and without leaving a trace.

The spyware was officially identified by the Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto.

“Mercenary spyware firms like NSO Group have facilitated some of the world’s worst human rights abuses and acts of transnational repression, while enriching themselves and their investors,” said Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab. “I applaud Apple for holding them accountable for their abuses, and hope in doing so Apple will help to bring justice to all who have been victimized by NSO Group’s reckless behavior.”

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