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A previously unknown zero-click exploit in Apple’s iMessage was used to install mercenary spyware from NSO Group and Candiru against at least 65 individuals as part of a “multi-year clandestine operation.”

“Victims included Members of the European Parliament, Catalan Presidents, legislators, jurists, and members of civil society organizations,” the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab said in a new report. “Family members were also infected in some cases.”

Of the 65 individuals, 63 were targeted with Pegasus and four others were infected with Candiru, with iPhones belonging to at least two compromised with both. The incidents are said to have mostly occurred between 2017 and 2020.

The attacks involved the weaponization of an iOS exploit dubbed HOMAGE that made it possible to penetrate the devices running versions prior to iOS 13.2, which was released on October 28, 2019. It’s worth noting that the latest version of iOS is iOS 15.4.1.

Although the intrusions have not been attributed to a specific government or entity, the Citizen Lab implied a connection to the Spanish authorities based on a “range of circumstantial evidence,” citing ongoing tensions between the country and the autonomous community of Catalonia amid calls for Catalan’s independence.

images from Hacker News