Apple sues Israeli spyware company in landmark case

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Apple and other companies use the NSO brand

Apple is suing the Israeli spyware company NSO Group, which offers software that allows users to hack their rivals’ phones.

The suit, filed in California, alleges that the company’s spyware compromised the privacy of millions of iPhone users.

It follows a report from last year alleging that phones were compromised when people downloaded the app.

NSO Group did not respond to a request for comment.

For years, smartphones were believed to be largely secure from intrusions. But new camera and microphone functions on Android devices mean many users unwittingly gave their phone the power to spy on them.

Spyware owners describe their devices as the only thing standing between modern communications and the dark net. However, they are not currently immune to legal action .

In 2016, the Israeli firm Check Point software company obtained a report detailing alleged misconduct by NSO Group.

After that investigation, the firm told Mr Sankey: “We believe NSO customers are subject to lawsuits and inquiries. We would hope that NSO customers would follow our rules and practices, meaning never download from rogue third-party apps.”

Criminal charges?

In California, the suit alleges that NSO Group engaged in a fraudulent or deceptive business practice by misleading customers about how its software would be used.

The suit says that NSO Group and its affiliates deceived consumers by including an app called Duqdo in its Apple and Android app stores.

By downloading the Duqdo app, the suit says, people unwittingly sign up to be targets of the spyware.

According to the lawsuit, the app first appeared to function like the existing Apple and Android apps that they previously downloaded.

But the suit claims that users were not informed that if they downloaded the app, their data would be accessed by Duqdo when they used its scanner app to find anyone else with a similar phone.

Duqdo connected to the user’s personal data and enabled Duqdo to give users anonymous access to their location and text messages, the suit claims.

Image copyright AP Image caption One of the alleged victims was Leon Leiserowitz who was allegedly followed by a would-be criminal

The suit lists several prominent firms as defendants, including Apple and service providers such as Verizon.

However, in the most recent lawsuit, the company listed as the alleged victim is OneReality — the firm that publishes Mobile Tech News.

The suit also details how one of its articles quoted a security expert named Leon Leiserowitz who was allegedly being followed by the suspect.

The suit alleges that Mr Leiserowitz had not knowingly downloaded the app.

It also claimed that the “illegally acquired information was used by the Duqdo Rogue App” to thwart Mr Leiserowitz and his family.

Mr Leiserowitz’s son, Ari, was also named as a defendant in the suit, along with New York Times Company and its online publication NYT Now.

Prove product

The suit asks that the court order US buyers of NSO Group products to prove their source and provide evidence that their phones have been hacked before they can make a purchase.

According to its website, NSO is one of the largest software companies in the world – with 800 employees and $360m (SR2.2bn) in revenue last year.

Based in Israel, it has branches in Russia, Latin America, Canada and the US. Its main rivals are based in France, Italy and Germany.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption CSO has identified several high-profile targets of the spyware

More than a dozen large phone companies have been accused of installing spyware developed by rival spyware manufacturers or claiming they do so to allow users to remove spyware they want to remove.

This year, Le Méridien and Bangkok Airways were accused of using spyware that was used to spy on their competitor’s laptops.

In Australia, a number of companies and universities have been accused of using the spyware of Israeli firm WeSpy to snoop on their staff.

In August 2018, the company named in the earlier suit, Nix, settled an Australian class action suit for $5m (£3.5m).

In California, a judge will rule on the suit’s injunctive relief (i.e. stopping it happening) and monetary relief (i.e. the money it seeks).

Leave a Comment