Russia accuses USA of surveillance via Apple phones

Russia’s FSB claims that the US NSA is exploit vulnerabilities in Apple phones to monitor individuals of interest to the White House, including diplomats based in Russia.

 Electronics, Mobile Phone, Phone, Iphone, White Board

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) issued a statement claiming that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is using previously unknown malicious software to exploit vulnerabilities in Apple phones. The malicious software was uncovered during efforts to safeguard the Russian telecommunications infrastructure.

The FSB’s investigation revealed that several thousand Apple devices were infected. In addition to domestic subscribers, infections were found among foreign numbers and subscribers using SIM cards registered with diplomatic missions and embassies in Russia, including countries from NATO, the post-Soviet space, Israel, and China.

The information obtained by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) suggests close cooperation between Apple and the US national intelligence community, particularly the NSA. The company is accused of providing the US intelligence services with extensive capabilities to monitor individuals of interest to the White House, including their anti-Russian partners and US citizens.

On the same day, the cybersecurity company Kaspersky reported that at the beginning of the year, its researchers detected a targeted attack campaign against iPhones, which they named Operation Triangulation. The campaign, believed to have started in 2019 and still ongoing, exploited multiple vulnerabilities in Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. Using ‘zero-click’ exploitation, attackers sent specially crafted messages via iMessage to victims, containing a malicious attachment that would trigger the attack regardless of whether the message was opened or the extension inspected. The attack chain would exploit additional vulnerabilities to gain deeper access to the victim’s device.

Apple has denied these claims, stating that they have never collaborated with any government to insert backdoors into its products. The company also added that Kaspersky’s report appears to apply to iPhones running iOS version 15.7 and below, while the current version is 16.5.

The NSA did not comment (yet) on either the FSB announcement or Kaspersky’s findings. Kaspersky’s announcement of the Operation Triangulation attack campaign coincided with the FSB’s allegations, but Kaspersky has not made any assertions linking the hackers responsible for Operation Triangulation to the NSA.