blew up a newspaperThe New York TimesA new scandal for the Saudi regime, by persecuting an opposition activist residing abroad through Israeli spying techniques
The American newspaper, in its report, said that the spyware of the Israeli company NSO Group repeatedly hacked the iPhone of a Saudi activist, which makes Apple issue emergency software updates, the security hole and the flaw in the system.
The Saudi Regime Spying on an Opposition Activist
The newspaper quoted Citizen Lab, an Internet security monitoring group, as saying that an Israeli-based internet monitoring company has developed a tool to hack Apple’s iPhones with unprecedented technology that has been used since February at the earliest.
The importance of the discovery comes from the serious nature of the vulnerability, which does not require any user interaction and affects all versions of iOS and OSX Watch OS on Apple devices except for those updated on Monday.
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The Israeli company accused of hacking iPhones is the same company that developed the Pegasus spyware program, which it sold to a group of Arab governments, including Saudi Arabia, which used it to hack the phones of opponents and some important figures.
And the vulnerability developed by the Israeli company (NSO Group) overcomes the security systems designed by Apple in recent years.
Apple said it fixed the vulnerability in a Monday update to the operating system, which confirms Citizen Lab’s discovery.
“After identifying the vulnerability used by this attack on iMessage, Apple quickly developed a fix for iOS 14.8 to protect our users,” Ivan Krstic, Apple’s head of security engineering, said in a statement.
“Such attacks are very complex, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals,” he added.
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“While this does not mean that they pose a threat to the vast majority of our users, we continue to work relentlessly to protect all of our customers, and are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data.”
Al’s spokesman declined to comment on the incident
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on whether the iPhone hacking technology came from NSO Group.
In a statement, NSO did not confirm or deny that it was behind this technology, saying only that it will “continue to provide intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world with rescue technologies to combat terrorism and crime.”
Citizen Lab said it found this type of malware on the phone of an unnamed Saudi activist, and that the phone was hacked using spyware in February. The number of other users who may have been affected by it is unknown.
It also made it clear that the success of hacking iPhones does not require any click from the target victim. Researchers said they did not believe there was any visible indication of a breach.
The loophole lies in how to automatically extract images in Apple’s Messages app (i.e.Message). iMessage has been repeatedly targeted by NSO and other dealers in cyber-attack software, which prompted Apple to update its architecture. But this did not provide complete protection for the system.
The same Israeli company was behind the marketing of the Pegasus program, a hacking program – or spyware – developed by the Israeli NSO Group and marketed to the governments of countries around the world. It has the ability to hack billions of phones running iOS or Android operating systems.
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The oldest discovered version of Pegasus obtained by researchers in 2016, hacks phones through so-called phishing, i.e. text messages or emails that prompt the target to click on a hacked link.
But then, the capabilities of the Pegasus program became more advanced. And it can reach its targets through so-called “zero-click” attacks, which do not require any interaction from the owner of the phone to be able to hack it.
These attacks often exploit “zero-day” vulnerabilities, which are flaws or bugs in the operating system that the mobile phone manufacturer hasn’t discovered and therefore been unable to fix.
And in 2019, WhatsApp revealed that the Pegasus program was used to send hacking programs to more than 1,400 phones by exploiting the vulnerability of the attacks without waiting.
Simply by making a WhatsApp call to the target device, Pegasus software can install malicious code on the phone, even if the target never answered the call.
Recently, NSO began exploiting vulnerabilities in iMessage software installed on Apple phones, which enabled it to hack hundreds of millions of iPhones. Apple says it constantly updates its software to prevent these attacks.
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