Tech giant Apple announced that it is suing Israel-based spyware firm NSO group after it claimed that the Israeli firm broke U.S. law by selling tools to hack into iPhones.

Apple noted in its lawsuit that NSO's elite program that can remotely hack its product, iPhones, was the work of "amoral 21st-century mercenaries," according to an NBC News report.

The tech giant aims to block the Israeli company from using any Apple product, which would affect NSO's current business model if imposed.

Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, said that state-sponsored actors like the NSO Group send millions of dollars on surveillance tech without effective accountability, which he noted needs to be changed.

Meanwhile, NSO Group argued that it only leases its technology to legitimate governments for the purposes of tracking criminals and enforcing laws and interests.

However, cybersecurity researchers noted that NSO software was used by governments to surveil human rights activists and journalists around the world.

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Apple Against NSO Group

Apple also noted in its complaint that NSO's signature spyware, Pegasus, had been used to attack a small number of Apple users around the world with its malicious malware and spyware.

As shown in some cases, there was a vulnerability in Apple's iMessage feature, which could be penetrated by Pegasus, according to The Guardian report.

Pegasus was also reported to be used against journalists and other members of civil society.

Ivan Krstić, head of Apple security engineering and architecture, said that it is unacceptable to weaponize powerful state-sponsored spyware against those who seek the world a better place.

Apple's lawsuit also seeks damages from NSO for its alleged "flagrant violations of U.S. federal and state law."

Meanwhile, the spokesperson added that pedophiles and terrorists can freely operate in technological safe-havens, noting that they provide governments the lawful tools to fight it.

The NSO spokesperson said that the company will continue to advocate for the truth.

NSO Group's Pegasus Project

The program was reported to infect a target's phone, and when done effectively, it could track the data, such as photos, audio, and video recordings.

NSO Group said that the software cannot be traced back to the government using it, which can be useful for clandestine operations, according to The Verge report.

There was a list containing 50,000 phone numbers that were spied on, which included three presidents, 10 prime ministers, and a king. The list had also included more than 189 journalists and 85 human rights activists.

Current presidents of France, Iraq, and South Africa were included on the list of those being kept under surveillance.

The king of Morocco was also being tracked. However, he was not the only royalty that appeared on the list. A princess from Dubai was also added, included some of her friends as she was trying to gain political asylum.

Two women close to a journalist murdered in 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, were also on the list.

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This article is owned by Latin Post.

Written by: Mary Webber

WATCH: Apple iPhone hack exposed in Israeli Pegasus spyware case - from Reuters