A spyware code-named Pegasus took full advantage of weaknesses in Apples iOS 9.3.5 operating system according to reports from Citizen Lab, a San Francisco based Lookout smartphone security company.
The software tracks calls, their contact list, collects all their passwords, reads SMS messages and emails, records calls and even traces the locations of the iphone user.
The maker of this spyware Pegasus is an Israeli company NSO Group. The company, a startup was setup by former members of the Israeli military Unit 8200 electronic surveillance establishment. NSO Group however declined to deny if it was the one who made it.NSO group spokeman said, “NSO’s mission is to help make the world a safer place, by providing authorized governments with technology that helps them combat terror and crime. The company sells only to authorized governmental agencies, and fully complies with strict export control laws and regulations.”
Israeli government agencies and even private Israeli tech firms are active and advanced in cyber warfare softwares and they are a decade ahead compared to the military of other countries.
Mike Murray, researcher at Lookout mentioned, “We realized that we were looking at something that no one had ever seen in the wild before, literally a click on a link to jailbreak an iPhone in one step. One of the most sophisticated pieces of cyber espionage software we’ve ever seen.”
Marczak from Citizen Lab mentioned, “It is amazing the level they’ve gone through to avoid detection. They have a hair-trigger self-destruct.”
This discovery which was announced on Thursday prompted Apple to issue an urgent software update to block further exploitation.
The discovery was made by Citizen Lab when Ahmed Mansoor, an Arab activist in the United Arab Emirates first alerted them about receiving an unusual text on August 10. The text mentioned that it would reveal details of torture in United Arab Emirates prisions and had an unknown link at the bottom of the message.
Mansoor was already attacked twice from two commercial brands of commercial spyware. So, he informed Citizen Lab this time only to find out that he was to be hacked the third time.