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Apple store front. Photo: Wang Gang/VCG via Getty Images

Apple released emergency security updates Monday after it was discovered that an Israeli cyber surveillance company's spyware could infect iPhones and other devices without the owner even clicking on a link.

Why it matters: The fix to the intrusion by the NSO Group's Pegasus software came the day before Apple is expected to introduce its latest crop of iPhones. The company touts the security and privacy of its smartphones among its key selling points.

The big picture: The security flaw was discovered by researchers at watchdog group Citizen Lab, which found that the phone of a Saudi political activist had been infected with the Pegasus spyware via iMessage.

  • The device had been hacked using a "zero-click" method that had allowed the spyware to live on the Saudi's phone since February without detection, according to the Washington Post.
  • The same security flaw would enable the software to infect other Apple iPhones, watches and MacBooks, per the Post.

An Apple spokesperson told the New York Times that it is planning to add new spyware barriers to its next software update, due out later this year.

  • Apple's security team has been "working around the clock to develop a fix," the Times writes.

What they're saying: "After identifying the vulnerability used by this exploit for iMessage, Apple rapidly developed and deployed a fix in iOS 14.8 to protect our users," said Ivan Krstić, head of Apple Security Engineering and Architecture, in a statement.

  • "Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals.
  • "While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data."

Be smart: "Users of mobile and computing platforms need to make checking for security updates a part of their weekly, if not daily routine," wrote Steve Turner, an analyst at the tech consulting firm Forrester, in a note emailed to Axios.

State of play: The NSO Group's Pegasus software made news earlier this summer after an international consortium of investigative journalists revealed it had become a valuable tool for governments to spy on journalists and critics.

Go deeper

Dec 21, 2021 - World

Why U.S. giants keep caving to China

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Chinese government increasingly is using its economic weight to reshape global behavior and strengthen its own authoritarianism. And democratic governments have left companies to fend for themselves.

Why it matters: Global businesses and nonprofits learned the hard way this year that taking a stand for democratic values can cause massive revenue losses in the Chinese market.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.

Mitch McConnell's remarks on Black voters raise ire

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a Capitol Hill news conference earlier this year. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been widely criticized for comments he made this week about Black American voters.

Driving the news: When asked by a reporter Wednesday about concerns among voters of color, McConnell said "the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans."