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Apple has sued the NSO Group in an earnest effort to curb the use of state-sponsored spyware. If we can recall the 2015 San Bernardino Case, a terror case with 14 killed and 22 injured, FBI and Apple got into an encryption dispute.* The phone in question was an iPhone, of the dead accused. The FBI wanted Apple to create and electronically sign a new software that would enable the FBI to unlock a work issued iPhone 5C. Security risk through the backdoor was the hot topic then, it has become more known today, if not more abused. Apple stuck to its guns, FBI found via media and life went on. From back door to interception has been a changing story, but it certainly gives us a fair idea about Apple’s mind on privacy and interception.

Pegasus spyware is already the reigning God of the interception world* and against all that privacy and data protection stands for. When Pegasus would hit the headlines again, no one knows, the probe is still on. Going by Apple’s demonstrated stand and history, it was but natural that they ended up suing NGO Group, the creator of Pegasus. The complaint talks about Pegasus’s targeting of Apple users. It provides new information on how the NSO Group infected victims’ devices. Apple wants to prevent further abuse and harm to its users. With this in mind, it is trying for a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services or devices.

Aimed at a very small number of users, Pegasus works across platforms including iOS and Android. Researchers have documented publicly the sordid saga of its abuse to target journalists, activists, dissidents, academics, and government officials. They are the ones who are either the champions of the free world or compromising their privacy would consolidate the strength of the powers that be; state or non-state. *Technically, Pegasus cannot be sold to a non-state actor or an enterprise. What is most intriguing is the state-sponsored actors like the NSO Group are not able to ensure accountability or they are comfortable with the most adverse fallout, as long the fallacy of accountability is maintained and the business model runs fine. Apple admits that though its devices are the most secure hardware in the market but the state sponsored private spyware can be even more dangerous.

”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 the head of Apple Security Engineering and Architecture. Apple can certainly boast of its secure devices, other mobile platforms have 15 times more infections than iPhone. Less than 2% of the mobile malware targets iOS devices. Delivering FORCEDENTRY has proven how dangerous it can be. Apple has not found any traces of compromised devices running on IOS 15 and later versions. The technical battle seems to have been lost a long time back to Pegasus / NSO Group but  the techno-legal might have a chance to win. Apple has announced $10 million to support cyber researchers and advocates is a silver lining.


Sanjay Sahay

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