ไม่มีใครสังเกตเห็นข้อบกพร่องด้านความปลอดภัยของ iPhone ที่ทำให้สายลับแฮ็กนักข่าว Al Jazeera

In the world of cyber security, experts are constantly looking out for the next big threat. Often, tech giants will employ entire teams dedicated to the sole purpose of safeguarding a brand’s technology from remote, digital attacks.

But as is the case with us mere mortals, some things can slip through the cracks and go completely unnoticed.

A worrying iPhone security flaw let hackers spy on Al Jazeera journalists, potentially exposing sensitive information.

According to leading researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, Doha-based news organization Al Jazeera was the target of a major digital espionage campaign, which made use of spyware from Israeli firm NSO Group.

Nicknamed Kismet, the spyware allowed its users to exploit an iMessage vulnerability that would entail access to the victims’ camera, microphone, and passwords.

All in all, 37 Al Jazeera journalists are believed to have been targeted.

Following the breadcrumb trail shows that four operators of the software were located in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Further details reveal that in at least two cases, the hacking was carried out on government orders.

For now, the motivation behind this series of attacks is unclear.

But there are suspicions that the Saudi Arabian and Emirati governments are using the spyware to quell political dissent.

Researchers at Citizen Lab believe they’ve only found a ‘miniscule fraction’ of attacks on iPhone users carried out by NSO Group’s software.

In response to the attacks, Apple said it was “highly targeted by nation states” and urged its users to update to the latest software in order to stay protected.

Researchers also suggest that London-based news presenter Rania Dridi, who works for Qatar’s Al Araby network, was also compromised in the attack. Evidence points to her phone being hacked six times between October 2019 and July 2020.

“I don’t know how to explain my feeling. It messes with your mind. Everything, your private life, it’s not private anymore,” laments Dridi.

“It wasn’t [just] for a month, it was for a year, and they have everything: the phone calls, the pictures, videos, they can turn the microphone on,” says Dridi.

Dridi is known for discussing sensitive topics (at least, by UAE standards) on her program, such as women’s rights. She also fosters close ties with an outspoken critic of the Saudi Arabian and UAE governments. She believes they may have spied on her to gather more intelligence about said critic.

iPhone users who have installed iOS14 don’t seem to be vulnerable to the spyware.

In response to the purported attacks, NSO Group claims to have no involvement. It also reassured that it didn’t have any access to the targets’ data, and that it was actively investigating “credible evidence of misuse” by its customers.

What are your thoughts? Is there really such thing as privacy in this digital age anyway?

Read more cyber security stories:

20 stupid passwords people still use in 2020 and how you can do a lot better

Rosmah Mansor paid cybertroopers US$24,000 a month to protect her image online

Go ahead, make fun of Mark Zuckerberg’s face all you want

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Cover image sourced from CC0 and The Arab Weekly.

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