Apple on Monday issued emergency software updates for a critical vulnerability in its products after security researchers uncovered a flaw that allows highly invasive spyware from Israel’s NSO Group to infect anyone’s iPhone, Apple Watch or Mac computer without so much as a click.
Apple’s security team has been working around the clock to develop a fix since Tuesday, after researchers at Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog organization at the University of Toronto, discovered that a Saudi activist’s iPhone had been infected with spyware from NSO Group.
The spyware, called Pegasus, used a novel method to invisibly infect an Apple device without the victim’s knowledge for as long as six months. Known as a “zero click remote exploit,” it is considered the Holy Grail of surveillance because it allows governments, mercenaries and criminals to secretly break into a victim’s device without tipping them off.
Using the zero-click infection method, Pegasus can turn on a user’s camera and microphone, record their messages, texts, emails, calls — even those sent via encrypted messaging and phone apps like Signal — and send it back to NSO’s clients at governments around the world.