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Apple Issues Alerts to Users in 92 Countries Regarding Mercenary Attacks in Recent Advisory

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Apple issued threat notifications to iPhone users in 92 countries on Wednesday, alerting them that they may have been targeted by mercenary spyware attacks.

The company sent these alerts to individuals across 92 nations at 12 pm Pacific Time on Wednesday, refraining from disclosing the attackers’ identities or the specific countries where users received notifications.

The warning message sent to affected customers stated, “Apple has detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack attempting to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID -xxx-. This attack is likely aimed at you specifically due to your identity or occupation. While achieving absolute certainty in detecting such attacks is challenging, Apple has high confidence in this warning — please take it seriously.”

According to an updated support page, the iPhone maker regularly sends out these notifications several times a year, reaching users in over 150 countries since 2021. Last October, Apple also issued a warning to certain journalists and politicians in India. Subsequently, Amnesty International reported discovering NSO Group’s invasive Pegasus spyware on the iPhones of prominent journalists in India. (Individuals in India are among those who have received the latest threat notifications, according to sources familiar with the matter.)

Apple’s warnings coincide with a global surge in elections, though the company did not comment on this timing. It informed impacted customers, “We cannot provide additional information about the cause of this notification, as it could help mercenary spyware attackers adapt their tactics to evade detection in the future.”

Previously, Apple referred to the attackers as “state-sponsored,” but now uses the term “mercenary spyware attacks.” The warning message emphasizes that such attacks, including those utilizing NSO Group’s Pegasus, are exceptionally rare and considerably more sophisticated than typical cybercriminal activities or consumer malware.

Apple relies exclusively on internal threat intelligence and investigations to detect these attacks, noting, “While our investigations cannot guarantee absolute certainty, Apple’s threat notifications are high-confidence alerts indicating that a user has been individually targeted by a mercenary spyware attack and should be treated with utmost seriousness.”

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