Apple issued an emergency software update on Monday after security researchers discovered a flaw that enabled highly invasive spyware, and then issued an emergency software update for a critical product vulnerability. Israeli NSO Group Infects anyone’s iPhone, iWatch, Mac computer without clicking.
Apple’s security team has been working on patches 24 hours a day since Tuesday. Citizen LabA cybersecurity watchdog organization at the University of Toronto has discovered that a Saudi activist iPhone has been infected with NSO Group spyware.
A spyware called Pegasus used a new method of invisiblely infecting Apple devices for six months without the victim’s knowledge. Known as the “Zero-Click Remote Exploit,” this exploit is considered the Holy Grail of Surveillance because it allows governments, mercenaries, and criminals to secretly break into victims’ devices.
Pegasus uses a zero-click infection method to turn on the user’s camera and microphone, including messages, texts, emails, and calls (including those sent via phone apps such as encrypted messaging and Signal). ) Can be recorded and sent back to the NSO clients of the surrounding government. world.
“This spyware can do everything iPhone users can do with their devices,” said John-Scott Railton, senior researcher at Citizen Lab, who teamed up with Bill Marczak, senior researcher at Citizen Lab. ..
So far, victims have learned that their devices are infected with spyware only after receiving suspicious links sent in text messages to mobile phones and emails. However, NSO Group’s zero-click feature does not give victims such prompts and gives them full access to their digital life. These features could earn millions of dollars in the underground market for hacking tools.
An Apple spokesman confirmed Citizen Lab’s reputation and said the company plans to add a spyware barrier to the next iOS 15 software update scheduled for later this year.
NSO Group did not immediately respond to inquiries on Monday.
NSO Group has long been controversial. The company said it sells spyware only to governments that meet strict human rights standards.But in the last 6 years, that Pegasus spyware Called activists, dissidents, lawyers, doctors, nutritionists, and even children In countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Mexico.
In July, the NSO Group was subject to intense media surveillance after Amnesty International, a human rights watchdog, and Forbidden Stories, a group focused on freedom of speech, collaborated with a consortium of media organizations. “Pegasus Project” It included about 50,000 people, including hundreds of journalists, government leaders, opponents and activists, targeted by NSO clients to publish the list they said.
The consortium did not reveal how the list was obtained, and it was unclear whether the list was ambitious or whether people were actually targeted by NSO spyware.
Among the listed was Azamu Ahmed, a former New York Times Mexico City bureau chief who reported extensively on corruption, violence and surveillance in Latin America. Including NSO itselfBen Hubbard, Times Director of Beirut, who investigated infringement and corruption in Saudi Arabia and wrote a recent article. biography Of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman.
Shalev Hulio, co-founder of NSO Group, vehemently denied the accuracy of the list and told The Times, “This is like opening a white page, selecting a number of 50,000 and drawing some conclusions from it. “.
NSO clients previously infected their targets with text messages that prompted victims to click links. These links allowed journalists to investigate the possible existence of NSO spyware. However, the new zero-click method makes it much more difficult for journalists and cybersecurity researchers to discover spyware.
“The commercial spyware industry is getting dark,” said Marzac, a Citizen Lab researcher who helped discover exploits on the phone of Saudi activists.
Scott-Railton urged Apple customers to perform software updates.
“Do you have an Apple product? Update it today,” he said.
Apple issues an emergency security update to close spyware flaws
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