Security breach forces Apple to release emergency update for iPhones

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If you have an iPhone of any sort (you might be reading this article on an iPhone right now), stop what you’re doing and install the latest OS update. It could save you a big headache in the future.

According to United States today, the Citizen’s Lab at the University of Toronto discovered what they call a “zero-click flaw” in Apple’s operating system that allowed hackers using Pegasus spyware to access your phone through iMessage without need to send a link that you need to click. Instead, they just need to send you a random picture to access your phone and all the personal information you have stored there.

After alerting Apple to the flaw, developers at the tech company quickly got to work on the fix and released it for download on Monday. To install iOS 14.8 on your phone, open the Settings app, tap General, tap Software Update and follow the steps. I updated mine on Monday night and it took about 10 minutes to download and install. Updates for Mac computers and Apple watches are also available, so if you own any of these devices, be sure to update them as well.

What is Pegasus spyware?

Created by NSO Group, an Israeli company that USA Today calls a “hacking company,” Pegasus is considered by some to be the most powerful spyware. never created by a private company. Why? Because it essentially turns your phone into a 24 hour surveillance device that can “copy the messages you send or receive, harvest your photos, and record your calls.” It may also be able to “secretly film you through your phone’s camera or activate the microphone to record your conversations,” according to an article written by David Pegg and Sam Cutler and posted on The Guardian back in July of this year. Did you panic again? If so, it won’t help; the authors say it can also “potentially locate where you are, where you’ve been and who you’ve met.” Yes, the technology!

How it works

Unlike other hackers or malware that try to unknowingly get you installed on your phone through a link sent to your email or text message, Pegasus can be installed on your device and you would never know it. The latest version checks for vulnerabilities in your phone’s operating system (OS) that the people who designed the system didn’t even realize existed. Think of it as water and your phone as the roof of your house. No matter how hard you think you sealed it, if there’s a little pinhole that you missed somewhere, water is going to get in. The makers of Pegasus find these pinholes and use them to access your phone, computer, tablet, or watch.

In the case of Apple’s operating system, Citizen Lab discovered that the “pinhole” was a flaw in iMessage’s “image rendering library”. Basically, Pegasus disguises itself as a picture code making your phone believe it is a normal, everyday picture such as a photo and lets it pass. What’s even scarier, or more awesome depending on how you want to look at it, you’ll never know. You will not receive any notification that you have received a message and Pegasus automatically erases any evidence once it is entered.

How much should you be worried?

NSO Group Says It Has Authorized Its Pegasus Spyware “For Government Agencies And Police Forces To Investigate Major Crimes,” Says in the United States today. While this may be true, Pegasus was also allegedly used to hack the devices of “human rights activists, journalists and political dissidents.” Unless you fall into one of these camps, the chances of someone targeting you or me with spyware are slim. If anyone really wants to know that my wife was running to Walmart after work and asked me if I needed anything, they can just ask, I’ll gladly tell them (the answer was “I didn’t. not needed ”by the way).

Having said that, why take a chance? Better safe than sorry if you ask me.

[Sources: USA Today / The Guardian]

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