Apple Rushes Out Patch for New iOS Zero-Day Flaws
An attack against a human rights advocate ends up exposing actions of the NSO Group and a new mobile attack.Apple today issued a critical update to iOS, version 9.3.5, which patches three zero-day exploits that were first discovered in the wild in an attack against human rights advocate Ahmed Mansoor. Apple patched CVE-2016-4655, a kernel memory disclosure issue with the iOS kernel; CVE-2016-4656, a memory corruption vulnerability in the iOS kernel; and CVE-2016-4657, a memory corruption issue in the WebKit browser rendering engine. Apple credits security research organization Citizen Lab and security firm Lookout with reporting the issue. Citizen Lab, a research group within the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, has a history of helping to identify attacks against human rights advocates. Mansoor, who is based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), contacted Citizen Lab after receiving a pair of messages he thought were suspicious. "On August 10 and 11, 2016, Mansoor received SMS text messages on his iPhone promising 'new secrets' about detainees tortured in UAE jails if he clicked on an included link," Citizen Lab wrote in a report. "Instead of clicking, Mansoor sent the messages to Citizen Lab researchers. We recognized the links as belonging to an exploit infrastructure connected to NSO Group, an Israel-based 'cyber war' company that sells Pegasus, a government-exclusive 'lawful intercept' spyware product. "
Citizen Lab then collaborated with Lookout to investigate the actual attack, which is how the three zero-day flaws in iOS were unraveled. The three vulnerabilities combine to enable an exploit chain that Citizen Lab is now calling Trident. The Trident attack would have enabled the attackers to spy on Mansoor's phone and gain access to the device's camera and microphone as well as its location.