Researchers describe NSO’s no-click iPhone exploit as ‘amazing and terrifying’

Google researchers have described the non-click-through NSO Group exploit used to hack Apple devices as “stunning and terrifying.” wired It has been reported. Project Zero researchers have called it “one of the most technically sophisticated vulnerabilities we’ve ever seen” which equates to attacks by elite nation-state spies.

The Project Zero team said it obtained one of the NSO’s Pegasus exploits from Citizen Lab, which it was able to capture via a targeted Saudi activist. I also worked with Apple’s Security Engineering and Architecture (SEAR) group on technical analysis.

The original NSO exploit required the user to click on a link, but the latest and most complex exploits require no click at all. Called ForcedEntry, it takes advantage of the way iMessage interprets files like GIF to open a malicious PDF without any action from the victim being required. It does this using old code from the ’90s used to process text in scanner images.

Once inside the device, the malware can set up its own virtual environment and run JavaScript-like code, without the need to connect to an external server. From there, it gives the attacker access to the victim’s passwords, microphone, audio, and more. Project Zero researchers said the vulnerability is extremely difficult to detect and is a “weapon against which there is no defense.”

Apple recently sued the group to “hold it accountable” for the governments that use it to spy on iOS users. Apple claimed that the targets are often activists, journalists, and other critics of regimes that routinely suppress political dissent. It also accused NSO of committing “flagrant violations” of federal and state laws in the United States. Last month, the US Department of Commerce added the NSO group to its “Entity List”, essentially preventing it from being used in the US.

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