Apple Alerts iPhone Users of ‘Mercenary Attack,’ What You Should Know

Apple Alerts iPhone Users of ‘Mercenary Attack,’ What You Should Know


Apple sent out iPhone security alerts to people across 92 countries on Wednesday, warning that their iPhones had been remotely targeted in a mercenary spyware attack. 

“Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack,” the company said in a threat notification email seen by CNET. “This attack is likely targeting you specifically because of who you are or what you do.”

Read More: Apple’s Lockdown Mode: Why There’s a New Level of Security for your iPhone

Mercenary attacks, compared to cybercrimes or consumer malware, stand out due to their rarity and complexity. These meticulously orchestrated attacks cost millions of dollars and focus on a small number of people. The targeting is ongoing and global, the company said in the email.

“If your device is compromised by a targeted mercenary spyware attack, the attacker may be able to remotely access your sensitive data, communications, or even the camera and microphone,” the threat notification email said.

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The news was first reported by Indian business publication The Economic Times, which said that India is one of the affected countries. It’s unclear whether iPhone owners in the US were targeted; an Apple spokesperson had no comment beyond what was shared in the notification email.

In a help page published Wednesday, the company offered advice on what to do if you receive a threat notification.

“We strongly suggest you enlist expert help, such as the rapid-response emergency security assistance provided by the Digital Security Helpline at the nonprofit Access Now,” Apple said. “Apple threat notification recipients can contact the Digital Security Helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week through their website.”

The company also referenced Pegasus, sophisticated spyware developed by Israel’s NSO group, when notifying people of the latest mercenary attack. 

Read more: iOS Lockdown Mode Can Protect You From Cyberattacks. How to Use It

In November 2021, Apple filed a lawsuit against the NSO Group to hold it accountable for surveillance and targeting of Apple users using Pegasus. This spyware had previously infected victims’ devices, including iPhones, without tipping the user off. Since 2016, cyberwatchdogs have uncovered several instances of Pegasus being used by various entities to monitor journalists, lawyers, political dissidents and human rights activists.

Read more: How to Check if Your iPhone Has NSO Group Software

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