Apple Issues Warnings of Mercenary Spyware Threat

Apple Issues Warnings of Mercenary Spyware Threat

Sophia Chen
2 min read

Apple Alerts iPhone Users about Mercenary Spyware Threats

Apple has issued another round of threat notifications to iPhone users in 98 countries, warning them of potential mercenary spyware attacks. This is the second instance this year, with the first alert sent to users in 92 nations in April. Since 2021, Apple has been regularly notifying users in over 150 countries about these threats.

The latest notifications, sent on Wednesday, did not disclose the identities of the attackers or the specific countries targeted. Apple cautioned affected customers that their iPhones were under threat from a mercenary spyware attack aiming to compromise their devices remotely. The company emphasized that these attacks are likely targeting individuals based on their specific roles or activities.

Apple expressed high confidence in these warnings and urged users to take them seriously. Notably, users in India have also received these notifications, following similar warnings sent to journalists and politicians in the country last October. Amnesty International reported the presence of Pegasus, a spyware developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group, on the iPhones of prominent Indian journalists.

In their communication, Apple highlighted the sensitive nature of their threat identification methods, stating that revealing more details could aid attackers in evading detection in the future. It is noteworthy that Apple has shifted its terminology from "state-sponsored" attacks to "mercenary spyware attacks" since last year, relying solely on internal threat-intelligence information and investigations to detect these attacks.

Key Takeaways

  • Apple has issued warnings to iPhone users in 98 countries about potential mercenary spyware attacks.
  • The latest alert marks the second such campaign this year, extending to over 150 countries since 2021.
  • Specific attackers and targeted countries have not been disclosed in the recent warnings.
  • Apple emphasized the personalized nature of these attacks, likely aimed at individuals based on their activities.
  • Apple has transitioned from using the term "state-sponsored" to "mercenary spyware attacks" in their communications.


Apple's repetitive warnings signal a surge in mercenary spyware targeting iPhones globally. The alteration from "state-sponsored" to "mercenary spyware" insinuates a broader, less state-centric threat, impacting tech security firms and governments. This shift is expected to prompt enhanced cybersecurity measures and policy reviews. In the short-term, users may adopt stricter security protocols, while long-term implications may include increased collaboration between tech giants and security agencies to combat spyware proliferation.

Did You Know?

  • Mercenary Spyware Attacks:

    • Mercenary spyware attacks involve non-state actors, often hired by governments or other entities, to target individuals' devices for surveillance, differing from state-sponsored attacks carried out directly by government agencies.
  • Pegasus Spyware:

    • Pegasus, developed by the Israeli cyber-arms company NSO Group, can infiltrate smartphones running iOS and Android, enabling the extraction of messages, photos, emails, recording calls, and activating microphones and cameras to surveil individuals.
  • Threat Identification Methods:

    • Apple employs sensitive and proprietary threat identification methods, relying on internal threat-intelligence information and investigations to detect and counter potential threats. Disclosure of specific details is avoided to prevent attackers from adapting their strategies to evade detection.

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