iPhone 'Zero Click' Vulnerability Exploited By Infamous NSO Group To Hack 3 Dozen Al Jazeera Journalists, Researchers Say

Three dozen Al Jazeera journalists using Apple Inc AAPL iPhones were hacked using spyware made by an Israeli company.

What Happened: The attack was allegedly ordered by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, according to a report published by researchers at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.

The report states that almost all smartphones made by the Tim Cook-led company and running versions of iOS prior to 14 are vulnerable to the malicious code used by clients of Israel’s NSO group.

“As we have repeatedly stated we do not have access to any information with respect to the identities of individuals our system is used to conduct surveillance on,” an NSO group spokesperson said, as reported by the Guardian.

The spokesperson said the NSO group reviews allegations of misuse according to its internal procedures after it receives “credible evidence.”

Apple said that the attack uncovered by Citizen lab was “highly targeted by nation states” and urged customers to download the latest software to protect themselves and their data.

The tech giant said it could not independently verify the work of the researchers.

Why It Matters: The “zero click” attack exploited a vulnerability in Apple’s iMessage service and allowed the attackers to penetrate the phones of Al Jazeera journalists without having to trick the victims into clicking on a malicious link, TechCrunch reported.

At least one journalist’s phone was reportedly compromised to the extent by the malware that it could secretly record phone calls, take pictures, and obtain passwords and location information.

This summer, Facebook Inc FB and its subsidiary WhatsApp got the go-ahead from a federal court to pursue a lawsuit against the NSO Group, which allegedly exploited vulnerabilities in the former’s software.

The Israeli company is also accused of helping the Saudi government in spying against the assassinated journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as per the New York Times.

Price Action: Apple shares closed nearly 1.6% lower at $126.66 on Friday and gained 0.52% in the after-hours session. 

Posted In: Al JazeeraCitizen LabiPhoneisraelNSO GroupSpywareTim CookNewsEventsTech