Apple refuses bug bounty to Kaspersky researchers despite iPhone spy vulnerabilities disclosure

Apple rejects bug bounty for Kaspersky after the cybersecurity researchers disclose iPhone spy vulnerabilities allegedly exploited in a sophisticated spying campaign targeting employees and Russian diplomats.


Apple has declined to award a bug bounty to Kaspersky, the cybersecurity company, after disclosing four zero-day vulnerabilities in iPhone software. These vulnerabilities were reportedly exploited to spy on Kaspersky employees and diplomats from Russia. A spokesperson for Kaspersky stated that their research team believed their findings were eligible for Apple’s Bug Bounty rewards. However, upon inquiry, they received a decline from Apple’s Security team, citing the company’s policy.

Bug bounties serve as incentives for researchers to disclose vulnerabilities to companies, rather than selling them to malicious actors. Kaspersky’s disclosure last year revealed a highly sophisticated spying campaign dubbed ‘Operation Triangulation.’ Eugene Kaspersky, the company’s CEO, described it as ‘an extremely complex, professionally targeted cyberattack’ affecting several dozen iPhones of top and middle-management employees.

The campaign, suspected to be state-sponsored due to its sophistication and intelligence-focused targeting, utilised 13 separate bullet points in its attack chain. Simultaneously, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) accused the United States and Apple of collaborating to spy on Russian diplomats.

The FSB’s allegations aligned with Russia’s computer security agency’s claim that both campaigns shared the same indicators of compromise. A critical concern was a vulnerability known as CVE-2023-38606, which affected an unusual hardware feature unused by iOS firmware. Kaspersky suggested it may have been included in the iPhone operating system mistakenly or for debugging purposes. Apple refuted claims of collaboration with any government to insert backdoors into its products, emphasising its commitment to user privacy and security.