Apple Warns “State-Sponsored Attackers” May Have Targeted iPhones

( On Wednesday, Apple sent alert messages to at least six activists who have been critical of Thailand’s government warning them that their iPhones may have been targeted by “state-sponsored attackers.”

One of the activists, Prajak Kongkirati, a political scientist at Thammasat University in Bangkok said he received two emails from Apple notifying him that his iPhone and his iCloud account had been targeted.

The messages warned the activists if their devices were compromised, the attackers might be able to remotely access sensitive data, communications, or even the microphones and cameras.

Political activists in Ghana, an opposition politician in Uganda, and a dozen journalists in El Salvador also received similar warning messages from Apple on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Apple filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, an Israeli cybersecurity company, and its parent company OSY Technologies, claiming NSO Group was surveilling and targeting Apple users with its Pegasus spyware.

In its statement announcing the lawsuit, Apple said that the NSO Group had created “state-sponsored surveillance technology” that has been aimed at a “very small number of users.”

Allegations of state-sponsored attackers using Pegasus have been dogging NSO Group for quite some time.

In July, security researchers found evidence of the attempted or successful installation of Pegasus on 37 phones belonging to activists, journalists, and business people whose names were on an activist organization’s list of over 50,000 phone numbers of politicians, judges, lawyers, teachers, and others. This list included phone numbers belonging to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as well as reporters from CNN, Associated Press, New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

NSO Group denied the link and argued that it only licenses its products to government intelligence organizations and law enforcement agencies solely to investigate or prevent terror attacks or other serious crimes.

What is unclear is whether Apple’s lawsuit against NSO Group is related to the message alerts sent out on Wednesday, or whether Apple believes the targeted attacks were by Pegasus. However, Thailand is one of the countries identified in 2018 as having an active Pegasus spyware operator.