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Is Your iPhone Safe? New Mercenary Spyware Threat Targets iOS Users

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Have you ever worried your iPhone might be compromised? In April 2024, Apple sent a chilling alert to users in 92 countries, warning them of a new threat: mercenary spyware attacks. These sophisticated attacks target specific individuals and can steal your most sensitive data.

Is Your iPhone Safe? New Mercenary Spyware Threat Targets iOS Users

This blog post will delve into mercenary spyware, how it works, and what you can do to protect yourself. We’ll also explore Apple’s recent threat notification program and how to respond if you receive one.

Apple Warns Users of Targeted Attacks

In April 2024, Apple sent out threat notifications to iPhone users in 92 countries, informing them that their devices were targeted by “mercenary spyware attacks.” These highly sophisticated attacks aim to compromise iPhones remotely and steal sensitive data.

What is a Mercenary Spyware Attack?

What is a Mercenary Spyware Attack?

Mercenary spyware is malicious software deployed by a third party on behalf of a paying client. Unlike regular malware, it targets specific individuals and is much more complex and expensive to develop. State actors or private companies typically use this type of attack for espionage purposes.

How Does Mercenary Spyware Work?

Spyware infiltrates a device through vulnerabilities in software or phishing attacks. Once installed, it can:

  • Monitor emails, texts, and phone calls
  • Track location
  • Steal passwords
  • Access files
  • Remotely control the device
What Did Apple's Notification Say?

What Did Apple’s Notification Say?

The notification warned users that they were being targeted “because of who you are or what you do” and advised them to take the alert seriously. Apple withheld details on how they detected the attacks to prevent attackers from adapting their methods.

How Can You Protect Your iPhone?

  • Install software updates: These updates often include security patches to fix vulnerabilities.
  • Enable strong passcode and 2FA: This adds an extra layer of security to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Be cautious with emails and attachments: Don’t click on links or open attachments from unknown senders.
  • Install apps only from the App Store: Third-party app stores may contain malicious apps.
  • Use strong and unique passwords online: Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.
Apple's Lockdown Mode

Apple’s Lockdown Mode

For users who receive a threat notification, Apple recommends enabling Lockdown Mode. This mode restricts certain functionalities to reduce the attack surface for spyware.

What to Do If You Receive a Notification

While the notification doesn’t necessarily mean your device is compromised, Apple recommends seeking expert assistance, like the swift-response emergency security support offered by Access Now’s Digital Security Helpline.

Apple threat notification recipients can access the helpline’s services 24/7 via their website. While external organizations lack insight into the cause of Apple’s threat notifications, they can provide targeted security guidance to affected users.

Apple's Threat Notification Program

Apple’s Threat Notification Program

Apple has been sending threat notifications since 2021 and has notified users in over 150 countries. It emphasizes that these notifications are “high-confidence alerts” but cannot guarantee absolute certainty.

Staying Secure

Following Apple’s security recommendations and being cautious online can significantly reduce the risk of being a victim of a mercenary spyware attack.

Final Thoughts

While the news of “mercenary spyware attacks targeting specific users’ credentials” can be alarming, remember that knowledge is power. You can reduce your risk by understanding these threats and following the security measures outlined above. Keep your iPhone software updated, use strong passwords and two-factor authentication, and be cautious with links and attachments. 

If you receive a threat notification from Apple stating you’re being “remotely compromised” by a “mercenary spyware attack” (previously referred to as “state-sponsored”), don’t panic, but seek expert help to ensure your device’s security. You can protect your iPhone and sensitive data by staying vigilant and informed.

FAQ - New Mercenary Spyware Threat Targets iOS Users


Q. Is my Apple device at risk of being targeted by mercenary spyware attacks?

A. Your Apple device could be vulnerable to mercenary spyware attacks, especially if you are one of the iPhone users in 92 countries identified as potential targets of such threats.

Q. How can I protect my iPhone from the latest mercenary spyware attack?

A. To safeguard your device from mercenary spyware attacks, it is crucial to regularly update it with security patches and refrain from clicking on suspicious email links or downloading malware-infected apps.

Q. How can I detect if mercenary spyware has targeted my device?

A. A way to detect if your device has been targeted by mercenary spyware is to look for any threat notifications or alerts from the Apple ID associated with your account.

Q. What steps should I take if my iPhone is remotely compromised?

A. If you suspect your iPhone has been remotely compromised, you should immediately change your password, notify Apple, and consider enabling the lockdown mode Apple recommends.

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