MOSCOW – Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Thursday it had uncovered an American espionage operation that compromised thousands of iPhones using sophisticated surveillance software.
Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab said several of its senior employees’ devices were compromised in the operation.
The FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said in a statement that several thousand Apple devices had been infected, including those of domestic Russian subscribers as well as foreign diplomats based in Russia and the former Soviet Union.
“The FSB has uncovered an intelligence action of the American special services using Apple mobile devices,” the FSB said in a statement.
The FSB said the plot showed “close cooperation” between Apple and the National Security Agency, the US agency responsible for cryptographic and communications intelligence and security.
In an alert published to its website, Russia’s Computer Emergency Response Team echoed the FSB’s warning and referred to research published on Thursday by Kaspersky Lab, which announced that “an extremely complex, professionally targeted cyberattack” had targeted an undisclosed number of employees in “top and middle-management.”
The NSA declined to comment.
Apple and the White House did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.
Kaspersky did not return messages seeking further details about its research. Unlike the Russian officials, the company stopped short of blaming anyone for the hacks.
The FSB said the American spy operation had ensnared diplomats from Israel, Syria, China and Nato members in the espionage campaign.
Chinese, Israeli and Nato representatives were not immediately able to provide comment.
The United States is the world’s top cyber power in terms of intent and capability, according to Harvard University’s Belfer Centre Cyber 2022 Power Index, followed by China, Russia, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Both the Kremlin and Russia’s foreign ministry pointed to the significance of the matter.
“The hidden data collection was carried out through software vulnerabilities in US-made mobile phones,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The US intelligence services have been using IT corporations for decades in order to collect large-scale data of Internet users without their knowledge,” the ministry said.
Russian officials said the plot had been uncovered as part of a joint effort by FSB officers and those of the Federal Guards Service (FSO), a powerful agency that runs the Kremlin bodyguard and was also once the KGB’s Ninth Directorate.