Hackers Have Been Spying on iPhones for Years


September 4, 2019
Security7-Blog Image
Google’s Project Zero announced some big news last Thursday: hackers have been using “Watering Hole” style attacks for years to spy on iPhones who visit compromised websites.

In the blog post (https://googleprojectzero.blogspot.com/2019/08/a-very-deep-dive-into-ios-exploit.html) written by Ian Beer, he says hackers had been discretely attacking iPhones who visited compromised websites.

Victims were targeted and attacked indiscriminately. The blog post doesn’t name which websites were compromised by hackers but Beer says they were regularly visited by people. Beer claims the sites in question were visited thousands of times a week.

According to Beer, Project Zero found five different exploit chains that leveraged 12 individual security flaws. 7 of those flaws were found to be a part of Apple’s built-in iPhone web browser, Safari.

Each of the attack chains allows the attacker to gain “root” access to the device. Root access is the highest level of access on an iPhone. Root access would allow a hacker to install malicious programs that would allow them to spy on an iPhone user without the user ever knowing they were being spied on.

Google claims attackers were using this exploit to steal photos, messages, stored passwords and even use the phone’s built-in GPS to physically locate a hacked individual while they use their phone.

Apple was notified by Project Zero back in February of this year. Apple patched the security flaws six days later with the release of iOS 12.1.4.

Beer says while the patch seemed to be effective, it doesn’t mean that similar attacks aren’t currently underway. Apple recently launched a $1 million bounty program. The “award,” if you can call it that, will go to anyone who could find flaws that allow an attacker to gain root access.

If there’s more news to come will keep you posted. Otherwise, I think I’m in the market for a new phone. The one in the photo below looks promising…


chatter phone

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Carl Keyser is the Content Manager at Integris.

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