Can Apple beat NSO Group, the world’s most notorious spyware company?

Numerous reporters, human rights defenders, and high-ranking officials across the world are increasingly becoming the targets of the notorious NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware program, which can infiltrate even some of the most secure servers and commercial software programs without the need for even a click. Once the spyware is on a person’s phone, the hackers can access the user’s photos, text messages, videos, contacts, and other files. The hackers can also utilize the phone’s camera and microphone to record conversations.

Can Apple beat NGO Group?

Image: Apple logo

Harry William Baumgarten for Slate:

Apple Inc. filed suit last week against the spyware’s creators, NSO Group Technologies and Q Cyber Technologies, on grounds related to the damage allegedly caused by the malicious program on Apple devices. Pegasus was developed by the Israel-based NSO Group, which was formed in 2010, is a subsidiary of Q Cyber, and was previously valued at $1 billion. For years, much of NSO’s operations were shrouded in secrecy. However, recent reports and lawsuits have begun to shed light upon its operations. Now, Apple’s lawsuit may be the best opportunity to put Pegasus to pasture for good.

On Oct. 29, 2019, WhatsApp filed the first notable American claim against NSO and Q Cyber, alleging: 1) violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; 2) violation of the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act; 3) breach of contract; and 4) trespass to chattels, which in this context, refers to illegally accessing Apple’s computer system. This case remains pending a decision on the merits from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California…

If history is any guide, [Apple’s] case could continue for years with lawyers using motions to delay its outcome and punish one another for any misstep. While WhatsApp’s case is first in time and also appears promising, the strength of Apple’s complaint leads me to believe that it is more likely to prevail on the merits independent of the outcome of the WhatsApp case.

MacDailyNews Take: For the sake of freedom and security, let’s all hope that Apple prevails in their case against NSO Group!

Interns, tap that keg! Prost, everyone!

(UPDATE: 6:59pm ET: Fixed typo. Thanks, Ali!)

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  1. It is impossible to “beat” such groups as NSO. No code over a few thousand lines is 100% bullet proof. The best any organization can do is work diligently to stay one step ahead of them, and then when a hole is discovered fix is as soon as possible (NOT as soon as practical, which is what Apple has done for years and years).

    Further, Apple should vastly increase their bug bounty program in scope, in dollar values awarded, and in promptness of awards. Then Apple should use the bugs found as training aids and lessons learned for it’s software and firmware teams. Apple should actively arm white hat hackers across the entire world. It will certainly help in staying one step ahead.

  2. I believe they have beat them, at least conceptually. Have a software upgrade that scans your pictures, reports the offending ones to an Apple associate who reviews it for compliance, and then forwards the results to law enforcement. For the sake of the children, of course.

  3. Apple should instal a back door into their system.framework for “social monitoring” and “citizen compliance” that would obviously make the wall garden more secure.

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