In a significant development, Apple’s iOS 16.5.1 update really does have important security fixes. The company announced on Wednesday that it has successfully patched two newly discovered security vulnerabilities in its iPhones and iPads. These flaws had been exploited to compromise numerous devices in Russia, according to The Washington Post.
Apple attributed the discovery of these vulnerabilities to researchers from Kaspersky Lab, a renowned Russian security software maker. Just three weeks ago, Kaspersky disclosed that some of its senior employees were among the targets of these attacks. Simultaneously, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) publicly accused the National Security Agency (NSA) of being responsible for the campaign. However, the FSB did not substantiate its claim with evidence or offer any explanation of the methodology used to reach that conclusion. The NSA has yet to respond to these allegations.
Kaspersky had previously revealed that the attack leveraged a malicious attachment sent via iMessage. Once the attachment was received, the user’s device would be infected, granting the attacker the ability to execute arbitrary code. Restarting the device would remove the infection, prompting experts to advise users to regularly power their phones off and on. Additionally, Apple’s optional Lockdown Mode proved effective in thwarting these attacks.
Expanding upon the details, Kaspersky stated that the post-infection malicious code featured 24 commands, including password extraction from Apple’s Keychain, location monitoring, and file modification or exportation. Georgy Kucherin, one of the credited researchers from Kaspersky, remarked, “As we delved into the attack, we discovered a sophisticated iOS implant that displayed numerous intriguing oddities.” Kaspersky named the attack “Triangulation” and, along with other organisations, released tools to check for device infections.
Apple assured its users that the security fixes would safeguard iPhones running iOS 15.7 or earlier, which had become outdated as of September. More recent iterations of the operating system boasted additional enhancements that rendered them impervious to these specific attacks. Apple reported that approximately 90 per cent of customers who purchased devices within the last four years have already upgraded to iOS 16, the latest major release.
Kaspersky expressed gratitude towards Apple for their collaboration in analysing and rectifying these vulnerabilities. In the past, Kaspersky has exposed various sophisticated spying tools associated with the NSA, including those linked to the Stuxnet malware that targeted Iranian uranium enrichment facilities.
Subsequently, US officials disclosed that Kaspersky’s consumer anti-virus program had been employed to extract classified information from a home computer belonging to an intelligence employee. Consequently, Kaspersky was banned from utilisation on federal machines, causing its market share in the United States to plummet.
The infection technique observed in the Triangulation attack bears resemblance to those employed by NSO Group and other providers of high-end spyware. The White House and other US authorities have sanctioned NSO Group for engaging in business with repressive governments that subsequently conducted surveillance on innocent citizens.
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