Google’s security authorities discovered proof of persistent attempts at hacking Apple iPhones over a 24 month period. The attack was executed through numerous websites that could secretly deliver malware which could collect contacts, photos, and a variety of other data. According to Google’s findings, people were visiting the insecure sites several thousand time each week.
The details of the attack were explained in a number of technical posts written by Ian Beer, a cybersecurity specialist and member of Google’s Project Zero, a team dedicated to uncovering security flaws.
What was the extent of the malware’s reach?
“There was no target discrimination,” said Beer. “Simply visiting the hacked site was enough for the exploit server to attack your device, and if it was successful, install a monitoring implant.”
Beer and his team found that the hackers were utilizing a dozen different security vulnerabilities to access the phones. The majority of flaws were in Safari, the primary internet browser for Apple devices.
After the malware made it inside a user’s iPhone, it could gather large amounts of data such as contacts, photos, and GPS location info, and it could then send the data to an external server every minute. The implant was also capable of collecting data from the user’s applications, including WhatsApp, Instagram, and Telegram, as well as Google Hangouts and Gmail.
The hackers were capable of compromising “almost every version from iOS 10 through to the latest version of iOS 12” according to Beer. He said, “This indicated a group making a sustained effort to hack the users of iPhones in certain communities over a period of at least two years.”
Apple released a software fix to correct the vulnerabilities in February. If you have an iPhone, you should be sure that you’re using most updated version of iOS to ensure the device is secure. Check your software update information under general settings to make sure you’re running iOS 12.4.1.