NSO spyware returns to target iPhones with new zero-click exploit

(Image credit: Pixabay)

Cybersecurity threat researchers have stumbled upon a new iPhone exploit that evades the latest security protections in iOS 14 known as BlastDoor.

The exploit came to light when internet watchdog Citizen Lab analyzed a Bahraini activist’s iPhone 12 Pro and found evidence that it was illegally broken into using what’s known as a zero-click attack, since it does not require any user interaction to infect a victim’s device. 

The zero-click attack apparently took advantage of an undocumented security vulnerability in Apple’s iMessage, sometime in February this year, to install the infamous Pegasus spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO Group.

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In total, Citizen Lab discovered that iPhones of nine Bahraini activists were hacked using this vulnerability, in a campaign they believe was partially orchestrated by a Pegasus operator with ties to the Bahraini government.

Foolproof security?

The Pegasus spyware by Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group, recently came into the spotlight when researchers from Amnesty International revealed that it was used to spy on journalists and human rights activists worldwide.

The latest hack on the Bahraini activists is just as significant, since it is the first known instance of threat actor circumventing Apple BlastDoor tech, which was reportedly designed to quash exactly these kinds of break-ins by filtering any malicious data sent via iMessage.

According to Citizen Lab, the spyware was deployed on some of the devices using two zero-click iMessage exploits; an earlier KISMET exploit documented last year, and the new BlastDoor exploit that the researchers have dubbed FORCEDENTRY.

Citizen Lab tells BleepingComputer that they’ve shared various logs from the hacked phones with Apple, who are believed to be now investigating the exploits.

Via BleepingComputer

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.