Apple warns Russian media outlets of possible Pegasus spyware attacks

Apple Inc. alerts Russian journalists, employed at independent media companies and news organisations, to beware of the dangers of the Pegasus monitoring software. 

Apple, Architecture, Building, Logo, Office Building, Symbol

Apple issued notifications to iPhone users employed by various Russian media outlets (primarily independent), warning them that the Pegasus spyware might have compromised their phones, the New York Times reports.

It is believed that many are at risk, as the first known case of Pegasus risk was identified by the digital rights organisation Access Now and research organisation Citizen Lab on 13 September 2023. They found that an iPhone that belongs to the Russian independent journalist Galina Timchenko had been infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware in February of this year.

Apple strongly insists on their users updating their software and reading up on how to use ‘Lockdown mode’ that could potentially stop or prevent potential infection. The update is available for the iPhone 8 and later models, iPad Pro, 5th generation of iPad mini and iPad, and 3rd generation of iPadAir. All later models are included.

Why does it matter?

These measures are necessary for Apple to ensure the safety of its own users, but they also contribute to the independent work of various news outlets that are in danger of being compromised by the state. The Pegasus issue has also captured the attention of the EU politicians, with many contemplating how to effectively address these concerns and provide sufficient protection for their citizens. In 2022, the European Parliament has established a Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware and found that Pegasus had been sold to 22 endorses in 14  EU member states. Even in 2021, UN officials expressed tremendous concern: ‘Given the fact that Pegasus spyware…enable extremely deep intrusions into people’s devices, resulting in insights into all aspects of their lives, their use can only ever be justified in the context of investigations into serious crimes and grave security threats. If the recent allegations about the use of Pegasus are even partly true, then that red line has been crossed again and again with total impunity.’