A now-fixed security weakness in Apple iOS was used by a different surveillance firm dubbed QuaDream to hack into the business’s devices. This flaw was earlier found to be exploited by Israeli company NSO Group. According to Reuters, “the two rival businesses gained the same ability last year to remotely break into iPhones [and] compromise Apple phones without an owner needing to open a malicious link.”
The 0-click vulnerability talked about is FORCEDENTRY. It is a weakness in iMessage that could be exploited to bypass iOS security and install malware, allowing attackers to collect a plethora of data, including contacts, emails, files, conversations, and images, as well as access to the phone’s microphone and camera.
REIGN, QuaDream’s spyware, works similarly to NSO Group’s Pegasus in that it gives users complete control over the devices. Apple fixed the fundamental problem in September 2021 and subsequently sued NSO Group for exploiting the bug to launch surveillanceware attacks on iPhones. The news comes after The New York Times published an explosive report last month detailing the CIA’s use of Pegasus to battle terrorism in Djibouti and its purchase by many countries, including India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The year-long probe also showed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States “bought and tested NSO software for years with plans to use it for domestic surveillance until the agency finally decided last year not to deploy the tools.” Furthermore, the new Phantom system is said to have been outfitted with the ability to target phone lines in the United States, contradicting the company’s prior statements that its spyware cannot be used on numbers with a +1 country code.
The FBI acknowledged to The Washington Post earlier this week that it had obtained a license to use the program and test its capabilities on phones that used foreign SIM cards. However, the agency noted that the software was only used “for product testing and evaluation” and that it was never employed operationally or to support any investigation. NSO Group has been beset by multiple defeats in recent months, with its spyware tied to numerous cases of political eavesdropping targeting diplomats and government officials in Finland, Poland, and the United States, and was also blocklisted by the U.S. government in November 2021.