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Apple wants to inform users of spyware incidents

Apple is stepping up its measures against spyware actions that are operated by government agencies. After a lawsuit against the Pegasus manufacturer NSO Group and a large donation to anti-spyware projects such as the Citizen Lab, users are now also to be informed directly if the iPhone manufacturer assumes that they have been the victim of such an espionage campaign.

Apple announced this in a support document published this week. Accordingly, it will be so-called in the future Threat Notifications which the Group will issue to those affected in a total of three ways. The notifications are therefore made on the central user administration page of the group (at the top), as soon as you have logged in, by email and, if possible, also by iMessage. The latter two ways use the email address or phone number stored with the Apple ID.

Apple announced this week that it was taking legal action against spyware providers. The Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp had already done this with the NSO Group. Their software Pegasus is said to have been used, among other things, to spy on politicians, journalists and activists. Apple had no solution to the problem for months because it was unclear which loopholes the NSO Group was using.

How exactly Apple intends to detect such attacks in order to inform its users is unclear. “These users are targeted individually because they are who they are or because they are doing something,” writes the company. “A very small number of specific individuals” would be addressed with their devices. These attacks cost millions to develop and have “a short sell-by date,” Apple said. “The vast majority of users will not be affected by such attacks.”

It can currently be assumed that the company uses routines such as those used by Citizen Lab or Amnesty Tech to uncover Pegasus – but in the future the company could also notify them of other spyware attacks. With its user information, the group shows that it has now set up the appropriate infrastructure. With the new function, it remains unclear how Apple deals with cases in which spyware is used within the framework of legal regulations (“lawful interception”). According to media reports, both the federal government – with secret services, for example – and the Federal Criminal Police Office are on the NSO Group’s customer list.

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