Apple reportedly informed some US State Department employees that they may have been targeted by NSO group spyware

Apple has informed at least nine U.S. State Department employees that they may have been targeted by spy software sponsored by the state-owned Israeli company NSO Group, according to Reuters a report quoting four people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for the NSO group said that Reuters that it will investigate and take legal action against customers who illegally use its tools if necessary.

“If our investigation shows that these actions really happened with the help of NSO tools, such a user will be permanently suspended and legal actions will be initiated,” said the NSO spokesman, who added that the NSO would also “cooperate”. with all relevant state bodies and present in full the information we will have. “

Last month, Apple filed a lawsuit against the NSO Group to hold it “accountable” for state-sponsored spyware aimed at Apple users. Apple also said it would contribute $ 10 million to organizations involved in cyber surveillance research and advocacy.

Apple said the Pegasus NSO Group’s “spy product” was used to attack “very few users” on multiple platforms, including iOS and Android.

Apple’s legal complaint provides new information about the NSO Group’s FORCEDENTRY, exploiting a currently patched vulnerability previously used to hack into the victim’s Apple device and installing the latest version of the NSO Group’s spy product, Pegasus. […]

To deliver FORCEDENTRY to Apple devices, the attackers created Apple IDs to send malicious data to the victim’s device – allowing the NSO group or its customers to deliver and install Pegasus spyware without the victim’s knowledge. Although misused to deliver FORCE, Apple servers were not hacked or compromised in attacks.

Apple said that the spy software of the NSO group could enable the attackers to “access the microphone, camera and other sensitive data on Apple and Android devices.” Apple added that iOS 15 includes new security protections, and as of November 23, Apple said it had seen no evidence of successful remote attacks on devices using any version of iOS 15.

In a support document, Apple said it would inform users who may have been targeted via email and iMessage “in line with industry best practices.”

If Apple detects activity in response to a state-sponsored attack, we notify the target users in two ways:

– Threat notification is displayed at the top of the page after the user logs in to
– Apple sends email and iMessage notifications to email addresses and phone numbers associated with Apple’s user ID.

These notifications provide additional steps that informed users can take to protect their devices.

Through lawsuits and notices, Apple aims to reduce the misuse of state-sponsored spyware.

“State-sponsored actors such as the NSO Group are spending millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s chief software engineer. “That needs to change.”

(Thanks, Jordan Golson!)

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Naveen Kumar

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