Google researcher details sustained, indiscriminate iPhone malware attack spread via hacked websites

Two iPhone XS. Together they are one iPhone XX.
(Image credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

For at least two years, hackers used compromised websites to install malware on iPhones that could gather and upload a user's photos, contacts, and other data, Google cybersecurity researcher Ian Beer explained in a blog post Thursday evening. "There was no target discrimination: Simply visiting the hacked site was enough for the exploit server to attack your device, and if it was successful, to install a monitoring implant." The exploits were discovered "in the wild," Beer said, meaning they were being used by real cybercriminals in the real world.

The hackers were able to attack "almost every version from iOS 10 through to the latest version of iOS 12," Beer said, though Apple patched the vulnerability in February after Beer and his associates at Google's Project Zero alerted the company to it. "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." He did not speculate as to who was behind the attack or which groups it targeted, and he didn't name the hacked websites, saying only they were visited thousands of times a week. Apple told BBC News it did not wish to comment on Beer's post.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.