Apple has announced that it will alert users whose iPhones and computers have been affected by state-sponsored hacking activities.
The world’s leading tech company shared the information following their recent move to sue NSO Group, the Israeli spyware firm, over accusations of supporting state-sponsored hacking efforts by selling the malware Pegasus.
According to Apple, the iMessage feature will be used to inform users whose devices have been compromised. As soon as the Apple support team detect that a user has fallen victim to a hacking attempt, they will send an iMessage in addition to an email to the affected user – a Threat Notification will pop up as soon the user signs into Apple ID (See screenshot).
Figure 1: A Screenshot shared by Apple to show how a Threat Notification will alert users (Source: Apple)
In a bid to provide background information behind the latest events, an official publication by Apple read:
“Apple threat notifications are designed to inform and assist users who may have been targeted by state-sponsored attackers. These users are individually targeted because of who they are or what they do. Unlike traditional cybercriminals, state-sponsored attackers apply exceptional resources to target a very small number of specific individuals and their devices, which makes these attacks much harder to detect and prevent. State-sponsored attacks are highly complex, cost millions of dollars to develop, and often have a short shelf life. The vast majority of users will never be targeted by such attacks.”
A History of Civil Rights Abuses
The latest news by Apple may be seen as step in the right direction of civil freedoms. There is no denying that NSO Group’s services have cast a dark shadow over the various societies that have been affected by its malware.
The Israeli spyware firm has always insisted that it follows a strict policy of ensuring that only legitimate government agencies can access their services to crack down on criminal activities and enforce country laws.
However, a host of investigations exposed the extent to which the NSO Group’s product had been abused by rogue state actors. Consider the findings that were made concerning the attempted and successful hacks of 37 devices belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists across the world.
In one instance from a case in 2018, it turns out that the Pegasus spyware was actually used to hack the mobile phones belonging to two women associated with Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist that was brutally murdered at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.