Russia’s Federal Security Service accused the United States of orchestrating a large-scale espionage operation by hacking thousands of iPhone devices in the country. The claim was made by Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, which did not corroborate it.
According to Kaspersky, the infections started with an iMessage attachment without any user involvement, a vector similar to that employed by NSO Group, a vendor of Pegasus spyware, and rivals who sell to international government agencies.
A Kaspersky representative told The Washington Post that researchers were still investigating the effort and lacked sufficient technical proof to identify its source.
The Federal Security Service (FSB), however, asserted that the attack targeted thousands of people, including diplomats stationed there, that the United States was responsible, and that the vulnerability’s presence proved Apple had worked with US Government hackers.
An Apple spokesperson while denying the charges said, “We have never worked with any government to insert a backdoor into any Apple product and never will,” according to The Washington Post.
A Kremlin spokesperson stated that the government believed iPhones to be inherently unsafe.
The foreign ministries of China and Israel did not reply to calls for comment after the FSB said that hacked diplomats were from those nations among others, according to The Washington Post.
No impacted devices, according to Kaspersky, were using an operating system that was more recent than iOS 15.7, which was replaced in September 2022. None of the impacted devices were also using Lockdown Mode, an optional setting that lessens the number of ways that iPhones can be attacked by limiting the functionality of iMessage, among other things.
A high-end government spying operation would more frequently exploit a zero-day vulnerability, which is an undiscovered defect that still affects software that is fully patched. International spying frequently targets the gadgets used by embassies and private security professionals.
The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence refused to provide any comment to The Washington Post.
Kaspersky did not divulge much that would have helped Apple determine what vulnerability was used, and it notified the firm just overnight, hours before the FSB revealed its findings.
The security company, which frequently collaborates with Russian law enforcement, did release a list of obscure websites that had been used to connect to the infected phones as well as technical indicators of penetration that consumers might use to examine their own devices, The Washington Post reported.