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
15 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
15 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
15 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
15 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
15 months ago
Israel is not our ally
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CarlJ Avatar
15 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)

Popular Stories

iPhone trade in

Apple Adjusts Trade-In Values for iPhones, Macs, and More

Wednesday January 25, 2023 9:40 am PST by
After announcing new Mac and HomePod models last week, Apple adjusted its trade-in values for select devices in the United States. iPhone trade-in values decreased by up to $80, and most Android smartphones also went down. Mac trade-in values remained unchanged or increased by up to $40 depending on the model, while some Apple Watch models increased in value and others decreased. Trade-in...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Pro Expected Later This Year With These 7 Exclusive Features

Tuesday January 24, 2023 4:53 pm PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are expected to be announced in September as usual. Already, rumors suggest the devices will have at least seven exclusive features not available on the standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. An overview of the seven features rumored to be exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro models:A17 chip: iPhone 15 Pro models will be equipped with an A17...
Mac mini M2 2023

New 256GB Mac Mini and 512GB MacBook Pro Have Slower SSD Speeds Than Previous Models

Tuesday January 24, 2023 1:11 pm PST by
While the new Mac mini with the M2 chip has a lower $599 starting price, the base model with 256GB of storage has slower SSD read and write speeds compared to the previous-generation model with the M1 chip and 256GB of storage. A teardown of the new Mac mini shared by YouTube channel Brandon Geekabit reveals that the 256GB model is equipped with only a single 256GB storage chip, while the...
iOS 16

iOS 16.3 for iPhone Launching Next Week With These 4 New Features

Friday January 20, 2023 11:43 am PST by
In a recent press release, Apple confirmed that iOS 16.3 will be released to the public next week. The software update will be available for the iPhone 8 and newer and includes a handful of new features, changes, and bug fixes. Below, we've recapped bigger features in iOS 16.3, including support for physical security keys as a two-factor authentication option for Apple ID accounts, worldwide ...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Expected to Feature Wi-Fi 6E Like Latest Macs and iPad Pro

Wednesday January 25, 2023 5:39 pm PST by
The iPhone 15 will support Wi-Fi 6E, according to a research note shared this week by Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Tom O'Malley. The analysts did not specify whether the feature will be available on all models or limited to the Pro models. Apple has added Wi-Fi 6E support to a handful of devices so far, including the latest 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With the New M2 Pro Mac Mini

Tuesday January 24, 2023 1:45 pm PST by
The new M2-series MacBook Pro and Mac mini models launched today, marking the debut of the first M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. We have the M2 Pro Mac mini on hand, and thought we'd take a look at the machine and do a series of benchmarks to see how it fits into Apple's lineup. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Base model Mac mini machines come with either an M2 or M2 Pro...
apple tv 4k red image

Apple Releases tvOS 16.3

Tuesday January 24, 2023 10:10 am PST by
Apple today released tvOS 16.3, the third major point update to the tvOS 16 operating system that originally came out in September. Available for the Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD, tvOS 16.3 comes six weeks after tvOS 16.2, an update that added Apple Music Sing. The tvOS 16.3 update can be downloaded over the air through the Settings app on the ‌‌‌‌Apple TV‌‌‌‌ by going to System > Software...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With the New M2 Max MacBook Pro

Thursday January 26, 2023 12:14 pm PST by
New 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with the latest M2 Pro and M2 Max chips are available in Apple retail stores and are already in the hands of customers, and we picked up one of the new M2 Max machines to answer all of the questions MacRumors readers considering a purchase might have. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Yesterday, we asked MacRumors fans on...