Apple Issues Spyware Warning to iPhone Users in 92 Countries

Maryan Duritan
Maryan Duritan
IT Writer
Last updated: May 10, 2024
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Wednesday, Apple sent a serious alert to iPhone users in 92 countries, warning them that their devices could be at risk from mercenary spyware. Around 12 p.m. Pacific Time, the company sent these alerts telling people that someone was trying to get into their iPhones through their Apple IDs. Although the attackers’ identities and the particular locations of the warned users remain unknown, the importance of the situation was highlighted in the message seen by TechCrunch.

The message made it clear that “Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack that is trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID -xxx-.” It also stressed how specific the attacks were, implying that people were picked because of who they were or their professions. 

“This attack is likely targeting you specifically because of who you are or what you do. Although it’s never possible to achieve absolute certainty when detecting such attacks, Apple has high confidence in this warning — please take it seriously,” This quote emphasizes how dangerous the threat is and how confident Apple is in its ability to detect it. Users are encouraged to take the warning carefully.

Apple has been sending similar warnings to its users in over 150 countries since 2021. This type of safety alert is not new for the tech giant. Apple is continuing to work to protect user privacy and security against new digital threats. This is explained on a new support page that is specifically for this problem.

Apple’s Spyware warnings as election day approaches

Apple's Spyware warnings as election day approaches

In October of last year, Apple warned several Indian journalists and leaders about possible spyware threats. This action was emphasized when Amnesty International revealed the presence of Pegasus, a renowned spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, on the iPhones of numerous prominent Indian journalists. Recent events show that Apple users in India are once again getting the latest security alerts, which suggests that the region is still at risk.

These spyware alerts come at a very important time, as elections are about to start in many countries. Over the past few months, several tech companies have been vocal about their concerns about the rise in attempts by state-backed actors to change election results. Even though Apple’s latest alerts didn’t directly talk about when or why these spyware attacks might have happened, the fact that they happened again during such a politically sensitive time is interesting.

Apple’s message to those affected makes it clear that the company is being careful about how much information it shares about risks. “We are unable to provide more information about what caused us to send you this notification, as that may help mercenary spyware attackers adapt their behavior to evade detection in the future,” Apple told affected customers. Apple told users who were affected. This comment shows that Apple cares about user safety while also recognising how hard it is to fight sophisticated spyware threats that are always changing to get around security measures.

From state-sponsored to mercenary spyware

From state-sponsored to mercenary spyware

Apple is now referring to the threats as “mercenary spyware attacks” rather than “state-sponsored” attackers. According to the company, these kinds of attacks, like the well-known Pegasus spyware from NSO Group, are very uncommon and far more advanced than most cybercrimes or malware.

These kinds of professional spyware attacks are unique because they are both hard to find and very complicated. They need a lot of planning, can be very expensive, and are generally aimed at a small group of people around the world. 

“If your device is compromised by a targeted mercenary spyware attack, the attacker may be able to remotely access your sensitive data, communications, or even the camera and microphone,” Apple warned in an email to users.

On its help page, Apple has put together tips to help people who might get a threat notice. The company strongly recommends seeking professional assistance, such as the quick help available from the Digital Security Helpline at Access Now. This helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help people who get an Apple threat notice.

Apple states that “Although our investigations can never achieve absolute certainty, Apple threat notifications are high-confidence alerts that a user has been individually targeted by a mercenary spyware attack and should be taken very seriously.” 

Apple took the NSO Group to court in November 2021, seeking accountability for spying on and targeting Apple users without their permission through the Pegasus spyware. This malicious software got into numerous devices, including iPhones, and secretly collected information without the owners of those devices knowing. Multiple cybersecurity groups have found that different groups have been using Pegasus to spy on a wide range of people since 2016. These groups include journalists, lawyers, politicians, and human rights activists. 

Conclusion

Recent events have shown that Apple is making a vital effort to combat digital espionage by taking substantial measures to educate and safeguard its consumers from advanced spyware attacks. By changing the words it uses to “mercenary spyware attacks” instead of “state-sponsored” and sending out warnings in over 150 countries, including a well-known case involving Indian leaders and journalists, Apple is one of the first companies to deal with these new digital threats. On top of that Apple’s lawsuit against the NSO Group over the Pegasus spyware shows a legal attempt to hold malicious actors accountable. It is important for Apple users to take proactive steps and follow their advice such as seeking help from groups like the Digital Security Helpline, as the digital world changes.

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Maryan Duritan
Maryan Duritan
Maryan Duritan, a seasoned U.S.-based copywriter and SEO specialist, excels in making complex ideas accessible. She crafts compelling website content, blogs, articles, ebooks, press releases, and newsletters, tailoring tone and voice to match client goals and audience needs. Her creative precision transforms ideas into impactful content.

Why Trust Us

Our editorial policy emphasizes accuracy, relevance, and impartiality, with content crafted by experts and rigorously reviewed by seasoned editors for top-notch reporting and publishing standards.

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