- Citizen Lab discovered a flaw that exposed Apple devices to a ‘zero-click hack.
- On November 23, Apple announced that it was suing a global software developer in response to a security breach that exposed its operating systems to surveillance.
In September, Apple rushed to release a patch to protect a reported 1.65 billion devices vulnerable to the NSO Group’s notorious Pegasus spyware.
How did Apple discover it had been hacked? Citizen Lab in Canada raised the alarm. NSO Group has licensed Pegasus to militaries, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement agencies worldwide.
Citizen Lab discovered a flaw in Apple devices that made them vulnerable to a “zero-click” hack, in which malicious code can be planted on a device without the user’s intervention, which Pegasus had been exploiting.
Citizen Lab, established in 2001, is an interdisciplinary human rights, security, and technology research organization. The lab, which is part of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, focuses on digital espionage, online freedom of expression, app privacy and security, and the use of personal data and surveillance tools.
The University of Toronto group is not alone among Canadian academic and private institutional research groups, such as Carleton University’s Cyber Security Evaluation and Assurance Research Lab, investigating ways to protect Canada’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. Other organizations in this field include the SecDev Foundation, the Waterloo Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute, the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick, and others.
According to Deibert, the aforementioned Mayfly operation “may be a sign of things to come in an era when unsuspecting readers are increasingly preyed upon by far-flung factions out to manipulate the public discourse with disinformation spread; via social media.”
Does this sound familiar in 2021? Social media manipulation, state espionage, ransomware attacks, and the like have no end in sight, and ideas like an international cyber arms control treaty appear laughable in the face of non-state actors’ power. We need independent, expert NGOs like Citizen Lab now more than ever to identify and expose threats in the digital world.
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