Apple defends iPhone security over links with spyware ‘Pegasus’ related attacks on journalists around the world

Apple defends iPhone security in the wake of two investigative reports revealing that surveillance spyware ‘Pegasus’ developed by Israeli-based company ‘NSO’ was used to hack iOS and Android smartphones of journalists, human rights activists, and other individuals by oppressive governments. The unwarranted monitoring led to harassment, violence, arrests, and even murder like the tragic death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In July, Amnesty International, Citizen Lab, and Forensic Architecture published a new database that profiles all the victims of State violence facilitated by ‘Pegaus’ on iPhone and Android mobiles. The list included “60 cases in which NSO’s spyware has been used to target dissidents and government critics from countries including Rwanda, Togo, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Morocco, and India.”

Zero-click attacks have been observed since May 2018 and continue until now. Most recently, a successful “zero-click” attack has been observed exploiting multiple zero-days to attack a fully patched iPhone 12 running iOS 14.6 in July 2021. Zero-click attacks which do not require any interaction from the target.

Earlier, a new report by The Washington Post and its 16 media partners found that Pegasus was used to hack 37 smartphones of government officials, journalists, and human rights activists around the world. The database’s list included more than 50,000 phone numbers of journalists, targets of governments surveillance, from CNN, the Associated Press, Voice of America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Le Monde in France, the Financial Times, and Al Jazeera in Qatar.

Apple -iOS-Pegasus

Apple says zero-click iMessage exploits only target specific individuals, not the majority of users

Both reports denounced Apple’s claim that iPhone is a secure device that is very difficult to hack. Therefore, the company has now released an official statement defending iOS security.

“Apple unequivocally condemns cyberattacks against journalists, human rights activists, and others seeking to make the world a better place. For over a decade, Apple has led the industry in security innovation and, as a result, security researchers agree iPhone is the safest, most secure consumer mobile device on the market. Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals. While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data.”

This is not the first time Apple has ruled out the possibility of hacking an iPhone. Previously, in 2016 a firm unlocked the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone for the FBI after the Cupertino tech giant refused to create a backdoor on iOS. Even then, the company argued that it was impossible to unlock an iPhone without its passcode but to the company’s dismay, a hacker from Azimuth was able to hack the device.

We believe that Apple wants to provide a very safe and secure smartphone to users which can not be used to invade their privacy. However, miscreants are constantly developing ways to crack iPhone’s security barriers. A gang of young thieves was caught in Brazil who unlocked stolen iPhones using the smartphone’s SIM in another mobile. The police reported that other gang members used more sophisticated ways to break into iPhone and empty victims’ bank accounts. Maybe it’s time for the Cupertino tech giant to think more intently about its vulnerabilities rather than just ruling them out as outrageous.

Read the complete report here. Are you satisfied with Apple’s response? Let us know in the comments section.

About the Author

Addicted to social media and in love with iPhone, started blogging as a hobby. And now it's my passion for every day is a new learning experience. Hopefully, manufacturers will continue to use innovative solutions and we will keep on letting you know about them.

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