Apparently iPhones can be hacked with your sensitive data stolen through software that doesn’t even require you to click on a link.
According to a report by Amnesty International published on Sunday (July 18), they’ve discovered iPhones belonging to journalists and human rights lawyers had been infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus malware that can provide the attacker access to messages, emails and the phone’s microphone and camera.
These findings suggest governments using NSO Group software have been able to successfully hack iPhones to spy on user data, and that they have been using methods unknown to Apple. According to the report, even keeping an iPhone up-to-date can’t stop a dedicated hacker who’s using expensive and secretive spy software.
Avoiding clicking unknown or phishing links in messages used to keep you protected against spyware and malware. But the report suggests that this might not protect iPhone users against NSO’s software. Past versions of Pegasus required the user to click a malicious link in a message, Amnesty International said.
NSO Group is an Israeli firm that says it sells the software to vetted government agencies and law enforcement to prevent terrorism, car explosions and to break up sex and drug trafficking rings.
Amnesty International found evidence of a hack in an iPhone 12 running iOS 14.6, which was the most current software before Monday. Apple updated its software to iOS 14.7 as of yesterday but hasn’t released security details yet that could indicate whether it has fixed the exploits identified by Amnesty International.
Amnesty International obtained a leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers that may have been targeted by spy software made by NSO Group. It found evidence that Android devices were also targeted by NSO Group software, but wasn’t able to examine those devices in the same way as the iPhones.
“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,” Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture Ivan Kristic said in a statement.
Security experts say the most effective way to stop malware is to keep devices patched with the latest software, although — at least for now — that doesn’t a guaranteed way to prevent any breaches.