Here is why you should update your IPhones to iOS 14.8, the latest software version. Apple released security updates for its iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Mac computers earlier this week that close a vulnerability reportedly exploited by invasive spyware built by NSO Group, an Israeli security company.
On Monday, the tech giant posted a security note for iOS 14.8 and iPadOS 14.8 that said some malicious PDFs could take advantage of its operating systems. “Processing a maliciously crafted PDF may lead to arbitrary code execution,” the note read. “Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.”
Apple also released WatchOS 7.6.2, MacOS Big Sur 11.6 and a security update for MacOS Catalina to address the vulnerability.
The fix, earlier reported by The New York Times, stems from research done by a public interest cybersecurity group called Citizen Lab that found a Saudi activist’s phone had been infected with Pegasus, NSO’s best-known product. According to Citizen Lab, the zero-day, zero-click exploit against iMessage, which it nicknamed ForcedEntry, targets Apple’s image rendering library and was effective against the company’s iPhones, laptops and Apple Watches.
Citizen Lab, based at the University of Toronto, says it determined NSO used the vulnerability to remotely infect devices with its Pegasus spyware, adding that it believes the exploit has been in use since at least February. It urged all Apple users to immediately update their operating systems.
“Ubiquitous chat apps have become a major target for the most sophisticated threat actors, including nation state espionage operations and the mercenary spyware companies that service them,” Citizen Lab said in a report. “As presently engineered, many chat apps have become an irresistible soft target.”
The security update rolled out a day before Apple took the wraps off a slate of new products, including iPads, Apple Watches and iPhones. The company used the fall rollout of devices, which is one of the company’s most important annual events, to tout its security measures. Saying that privacy is “built in from the beginning,” Apple said the upcoming version of its iOS software will block trackers and prevent monitoring of email, among other safety provisions.
Apple thanked Citizen Lab for providing a sample of the exploit, which the iPhone maker said wasn’t a threat to most of its users.
“Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals,” Ivan Krstić, who runs Apple’s security engineering and architecture operations, said in a statement.
“While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data.