Apple Releases Emergency Security Update to Address Critical Spyware Vulnerability

Apple released an emergency security update for its iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and iMac devices to address a critical vulnerability being exploited by Pegasus spyware.

The spyware works by hijacking control of Apple devices through iMessage and using a flaw in Apple’s image processing software to silently infect devices. This type of exploit is especially dangerous, as the attack does not require any sort of action from the victim. Apple credited the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab for discovering the zero-day vulnerability who estimates the exploit has been in use since February.

"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,” Ivan Krstic, head of Apple's Security Engineering and Architecture. "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."

While the general consensus among the cyber world is that the majority of Apple device users do not need to worry since these types of attacks tend to target specific targets (journalists, press, etc.), the discovery of a zero-day vulnerability such as this is significant due to how the exploit worked through iMessage. 

The majority of Apple device users should have received a push notification with software update instructions. If you have not, you can access the latest software updates and instructions at the links below.

Israeli spyware firm, the NSO Group, is reportedly behind the attack and describes itself as an organization that creates surveillance and hacking software for governments. They claim their flagship product, Pegasus, is an important tool in counter-terrorism and law enforcement rather than malicious spyware. The group did not address the allegations directly but did release a brief statement through their spokesperson.

"NSO Group will continue to provide intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world with lifesaving technologies to fight terror and crime."

This is not the first time the NSO Group has been in the news for spyware allegations, with Facebook filing a lawsuit against them in 2019 for their role in the hack of 1,400 mobile devices using WhatsApp, a charge NSO disputed.

About Schneider Downs Cybersecurity

The Schneider Downs cybersecurity practice consists of experts offering a comprehensive set of information technology security services, including penetration testing, intrusion prevention/detection review, ransomware security, vulnerability assessments and a robust digital forensics and incident response team. For more information, visit www.schneiderdowns.com/cybersecurity or contact the team at [email protected].

In addition, our Digital Forensics and Incident Response teams are available 24x7x365 at 1-800-993-8937 if you suspect or are experiencing a network incident of any kind.

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