Apple Warns Users in 92 Countries About Mercenary Spyware Attacks

Apple on Wednesday sent threat notifications to users in 92 countries warning that they may have been targeted by mercenary spyware attacks, likely because of who they are or what they do.

apple security banner
According to TechCrunch, Apple sent the alerts to the individuals at 12 p.m. Pacific Time, delivered via email and iMessage using the contact details associated with the user's Apple ID. A notification also appears at the top of the page if the user signs into appleid.apple.com.

"Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack that is trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID -xxx-," the company wrote in the warning to affected customers. "We are unable to provide more information about what caused us to send you this notification, as that may help mercenary spyware attackers adapt their behavior to evade detection in the future."

"This attack is likely targeting you specifically because of who you are or what you do. Although it's never possible to achieve absolute certainty when detecting such attacks, Apple has high confidence in this warning — please take it seriously," added the warning.

In an updated support document, Apple said it has sent similar threat notifications to users in over 150 countries since 2021. "The extreme cost, sophistication, and worldwide nature of mercenary spyware attacks makes them some of the most advanced digital threats in existence today," said the company. "As a result, Apple does not attribute the attacks or resulting threat notifications to any specific attackers or geographical regions."

Last October, Apple sent similar warnings to some journalists and politicians in India. Soon after, nonprofit advocacy group Amnesty International reported that it had found Israeli cyber-arms company NSO Group's invasive spyware Pegasus on the iPhones of prominent journalists in India. Users in India are among those who received the latest threat notifications, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to TechCrunch.

The alerts come at a time when many nations are preparing for democratic elections. Apple previously described the attackers as "state-sponsored" in the support document, but has replaced those references with "mercenary spyware attacks." The warning to customers reads: "Mercenary spyware attacks, such as those using Pegasus from the NSO Group, are exceptionally rare and vastly more sophisticated than regular cybercriminal activity or consumer malware."

Apple advises those who have received a threat notification to seek expert help, such as the rapid-response emergency security assistance provided by the Digital Security Helpline at the nonprofit Access Now. Apple threat notification recipients can contact the Digital Security Helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week through their website.

Users who have not received an Apple threat notification but have good reason to believe they may be individually targeted by mercenary spyware attacks are advised to enable Lockdown Mode on their devices for additional protection.

Popular Stories

iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

Report: These 10 New AI Features Are Coming in iOS 18

Sunday May 26, 2024 12:57 pm PDT by
iOS 18 and macOS 15 will offer an array of new AI features such as auto-generated emojis, suggested replies to emails and messages, and more, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports. A significant portion of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is expected to focus on AI features. Writing his latest "Power On" newsletter, Gurman explained that Apple's AI strategy emphasizes providing...
new best buy blue

Best Buy's Memorial Day Sale Has Record Low Prices on iPads, MacBooks, and Much More

Friday May 24, 2024 7:12 am PDT by
Best Buy today kicked off its Memorial Day weekend sale, and it has some of the best prices we've tracked in weeks on iPads and MacBooks. Specifically, you'll find record low prices on the 5th generation iPad Air, iPad mini 6, M2 MacBook Air, and M3 MacBook Pro. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Best Buy. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment,...
iOS 18 WWDC 24 Feature 2

Gurman: iOS 18 Will Allow Users to Recolor App Icons and Place Them Anywhere

Sunday May 26, 2024 12:22 pm PDT by
Apple's iOS 18 update will introduce new features for further customizing the iPhone's home screen, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. In the latest edition of his "Power On" newsletter, Gurman claimed that Apple will allow users to change the color of app icons in iOS 18. For example, "you can make all your social icons blue or finance-related ones green." This kind of home screen...
Apple iPhone 14 color lineup feature

Apple Now Selling Refurbished iPhone 14 Models

Friday May 24, 2024 11:15 am PDT by
Apple today added refurbished iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max devices to its online store for refurbished products, offering the prior-generation iPhones at a discount for the first time since their 2022 launch. The iPhone 14 is available starting at $619, the iPhone 14 Pro is available starting at $759, and the iPhone 14 Pro Max is available starting at $849. ...
top stories 25may2024

Top Stories: iOS 17.5.1 Fixes Concerning Photos Bug, All-New iPhone 17 Model Rumored, and More

Saturday May 25, 2024 6:00 am PDT by
It's been quite a week of Apple news and rumors, ranging from a concerning bug with deleted photos reappearing on users' devices to hot rumors about a new high-end iPhone model for 2025 and a MacBook with a foldable screen coming as soon as 2026. Other news and rumors this week included fresh expectations for iOS 18 features and new headphones from Sonos to compete head-to-head with AirPods...

Top Rated Comments

SpotOnT Avatar
7 weeks ago

Am I glad I switched to the Samsung S24 and gave up using an iPhone.

My iPhone got badly hacked by that Israeli software 6 months ago. I real nightmare. Had to throw the phone out it was so badly hacked.

Seems nowadays iPhones get targeted with spyware even worse than Android.
Android just doesn’t bother notifying you when you are hacked?
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
contacos Avatar
7 weeks ago
In case you are wondering what it actually looks like:




(from a reddit user last night)
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ael_MR Avatar
7 weeks ago
I wasn't aware that people are safer on android or that hacks of this nature are common on iPhone. Thanks for this enlightening information. I will consider myself warned on the dangers of iPhone and it's lax security.

btw this is sarcasm in response to some of the replies for those who are already disliking my comment.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Darren.h Avatar
7 weeks ago
Am I glad I switched to the Samsung S24 and gave up using an iPhone.

My iPhone got badly hacked by that Israeli software 6 months ago. I real nightmare. Had to throw the phone out it was so badly hacked.

Seems nowadays iPhones get targeted with spyware even worse than Android.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
contacos Avatar
7 weeks ago

Funny that Apple knows that the attackers are "state-sponsored" ?
Well the NSO group is from Israel and their biggest client was Mexico before others bought it as well. The UAE also received access to Pegasus as part of their befriending (3?) years ago.

An example: https://www.democracynow.org/2017/7/12/mexico_spied_on_human_rights_investigators
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SpotOnT Avatar
7 weeks ago

Funny that Apple knows that the attackers are "state-sponsored" ?
That is because that is the only people paying to use this stuff now.

It is state developed software, sold to other states.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)