Apple Reportedly Notified Some U.S. State Department Employees They May Have Been Targeted by NSO Group Spyware

Apple has notified at least nine U.S. Department of State employees that they may have been targeted by state-sponsored spyware created by Israeli company NSO Group, according to a Reuters report citing four people familiar with the matter.

apple security banner
A spokesperson for NSO Group told Reuters that it will investigate and take legal action against customers using its tools illegally if necessary.

"If our investigation shall show these actions indeed happened with NSO's tools, such customer will be terminated permanently and legal actions will take place," said an NSO spokesperson, who added that NSO will also "cooperate with any relevant government authority and present the full information we will have."

Last month, Apple filed a lawsuit against NSO Group to "hold it accountable" for state-sponsored spyware targeting Apple users. Apple also said it would contribute $10 million to organizations pursuing cybersurveillance research and advocacy.

Apple said NSO Group's "spyware product" Pegasus was used to attack a "very small number of users" across multiple platforms, including iOS and Android.

Apple's legal complaint provides new information on NSO Group's FORCEDENTRY, an exploit for a now-patched vulnerability previously used to break into a victim's Apple device and install the latest version of NSO Group's spyware product, Pegasus. […]

To deliver FORCEDENTRY to Apple devices, attackers created Apple IDs to send malicious data to a victim's device — allowing NSO Group or its clients to deliver and install Pegasus spyware without a victim's knowledge. Though misused to deliver FORCEDENTRY, Apple servers were not hacked or compromised in the attacks.

Apple said NSO Group's spyware could allow for attackers to "access the microphone, camera, and other sensitive data on Apple and Android devices." Apple added that iOS 15 includes new security protections and, as of November 23, Apple said it had not observed any evidence of successful remote attacks against devices running any iOS 15 version.

In a support document, Apple said it would notify users who may have been targeted by email and iMessage "in accordance with industry best practices."

If Apple discovers activity consistent with a state-sponsored attack, we notify the targeted users in two ways:

- A Threat Notification is displayed at the top of the page after the user signs into appleid.apple.com.
- Apple sends an email and iMessage notification to the email addresses and phone numbers associated with the user's Apple ID.

These notifications provide additional steps that notified users can take to help protect their devices.

Through the lawsuit and notifications, Apple aims to cut down on the abuse of state-sponsored spyware.

"State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability," said Apple's software engineering chief Craig Federighi. "That needs to change."

(Thanks, Jordan Golson!)

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

indychris Avatar
9 months ago
If there's one thing the US Govt hates, it's competition! There will be no end to the wrath when the state department finds out that someone is using their own tactics against them!
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deevey Avatar
9 months ago

I sure would like to know which state is sponsoring spying on American state dept officials. Anyone know?
Probably Virginia :cool:
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BWhaler Avatar
9 months ago
Good stuff Apple. Shut these NSO clowns down…there is blood on their hands.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Sammy in SoCal Avatar
9 months ago

Are you sure? It seems unlikely. I haven't heard the US isn't pulling our officials from there in protest. Surely it must be some other place. They are an ally after all. It must be Russia. Yes, that's it. It's Putin again.
Israel nearly owns the united states. They have the biggest lobby, AIPAC
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SenorWhyMe Avatar
9 months ago
Israel is not our ally
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CarlJ Avatar
9 months ago

I sure would like to know which state is sponsoring spying on American state dept officials. Anyone know?
I think you don't understand what the phrase "state-sponsored" means in this context.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

applerefurbishedgoodastwo

Apple's $95 Million Settlement Over Refurbished Replacement Devices Not Being 'Equivalent to New' Moves Forward

Tuesday January 25, 2022 11:13 am PST by
Back in October, Apple agreed to pay $95 million to settle an ongoing class action lawsuit that accused the company of violating various U.S. laws and regulations by providing customers with refurbished replacement devices instead of new devices when repairs were required under AppleCare. Administrators handling the case have now updated the "Replacement Device Lawsuit" website with details...
apple amsterdam

Apple Issues Statement Following Resolved Hostage Situation At Amsterdam Store

Wednesday February 23, 2022 4:30 am PST by
Apple has praised Dutch police as well as customers and staff at an Amsterdam store where a hostage situation yesterday came to a close with no injuries to the public and the suspect detained in custody. In a statement obtained by TechCrunch, Apple said that all employees and customers are safe after the "terrifying experience" at Apple Amsterdam in Leidseplein on Tuesday. "We want to thank ...
nso israeli surveillance firm

Apple Aims to Cut Down on Spyware With Lawsuit Against NSO Group

Tuesday November 23, 2021 10:09 am PST by
Apple today announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Israeli firm NSO Group and its parent company with the aim of holding it accountable for targeting Apple users with spyware used for surveillance purposes. In the lawsuit, Apple offers up information on how NSO Group infiltrated the devices of iPhone owners and how it utilized the Pegasus spyware to do so. Apple is asking for a...
iOS App Store General Feature JoeBlue

U.S. Bills Allowing Sideloading Would Cause Consumers to Be Hit With 'Malware, Ransomware, and Scams,' Says Apple

Tuesday January 18, 2022 11:42 am PST by
U.S. bills that would require major changes to the App Store would ultimately cause consumers to be targeted with malware, ransomware, and scams, Apple's Senior Director of Government Affairs Timothy Powderly said in a letter that was sent today to the Senate Judiciary Committee and that was obtained by MacRumors. Apple sent the letter as the Judiciary Committee prepares to consider the Amer...
14 16 inch 2021 mbps back to back feature

Hackers Behind MacBook Pro Schematics Leak Arrested in Russia

Friday January 14, 2022 7:23 am PST by
The ransomware hackers behind last year's MacBook Pro schematics leak have now been arrested in Russia, the FSB today announced in a press release (via Reuters). Following an initial arrest late last year, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) explained that it has arrested 14 members of "REvil," an organized criminal association that used malicious software to extort funds from companies. ...
tmobilelogo

T-Mobile's Latest Data Breach Linked to SIM Swap Attacks

Wednesday December 29, 2021 10:15 am PST by
Back in August, T-Mobile suffered a massive data breach impacting more than 50 million current, former, and prospective T-Mobile users, and now the cellular company is dealing with another smaller data breach incident. Reports yesterday suggested that T-Mobile was aware of unauthorized activity affecting some customer accounts, and now, T-Mobile has confirmed that those reports were due to...
apple wallet drivers license feature

Apple Announces iPhone Driver's Licenses Coming Soon to These 11 U.S. States

Wednesday March 23, 2022 11:52 am PDT by
Apple today announced that Arizona residents can now add their driver's license or state ID to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch, providing a convenient and contactless way to display proof of identity or age. Arizona is the first U.S. state to offer this feature to residents, with many other states planning to follow suit. Apple said that Colorado, Hawaii, Mississippi, Ohio, and...
Whatsapp Feature

WhatsApp Polling Feature for Chat Groups Currently in Beta

Monday March 7, 2022 3:09 am PST by
WhatsApp is working on letting users conduct polls within groups on the chat platform, the latest beta for iOS has revealed (via WABetaInfo). The coming ability to create polls within WhatsApp groups was confirmed in screenshots that show the process of setting one up, with users able to ask a poll question and group members able to choose from pre-defined answers. Polls will only be...

Popular Stories

cook sept 2020 event

Gurman: Apple Preparing Pre-Recorded iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 Event

Sunday August 7, 2022 6:13 am PDT by
Apple has "started to record" its virtual September event, where it's expected to announce the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 8, and a new "rugged" Apple Watch model, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman says the event, which is expected to take place in the early part of September, is already under production, implying...
Apple Watch Series 7 Starlight Midnight

Standard Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature Same Design as Series 7

Friday August 5, 2022 7:46 am PDT by
The standard 41mm and 45mm models of the Apple Watch Series 8 will feature the same design as the Apple Watch Series 7, according to Twitter user @ShrimpApplePro, who was first to reveal that iPhone 14 Pro models would feature a new pill-and-hole display. Titanium will not be an option for the standard Apple Watch Series 8 models either, according to @ShrimpApplePro, but Bloomberg's Mark...
iPhone 14 Lineup Feature Purple

Color Options for All iPhone 14 Models: Everything We Know

Monday August 8, 2022 3:59 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup's color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year. Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro's selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the ...
ios 16 beta 5 battery percent

iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar

Monday August 8, 2022 10:43 am PDT by
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone X and the iPhone XS. Battery percent...
iphone 14 pro max camera bump compared lipilipsi 16 9

Bigger iPhone 14 Pro Max Camera Bump Shown Alongside iPhone 13 Pro Max

Monday August 8, 2022 4:33 am PDT by
The camera bump on the upcoming iPhone 14 Pro Max is expected to be the largest rear lens housing Apple has ever installed on its flagship smartphones, and a new photo offers a rare glimpse at just how prominent it is compared to Apple's predecessor device. iPhone 14 Pro Max dummy (left) vs iPhone 13 Pro Max All iPhone 14 models are expected to see upgrades to the Ultra Wide camera on the...
ipad pro magic keyboard white

Rumor Claims Next iPad Pro to Feature New Four-Pin Smart Connector

Sunday August 7, 2022 11:57 am PDT by
A new rumor claims that the next-generation 12.9-inch and 11-inch iPad Pro will feature a new four-pin Smart Connector, an update from the current three-pin connector in the iPad Pro. The rumor from Mac Otakara, citing "reliable sources," says that the next iPad Pro, expected to debut possibly as soon as this fall, will feature a new Smart Connector that has four-pins rather than three. The...