Google’s Project Zero published a blog post this week about a previous security threat wherein malicious websites quietly hacked into the victim’s iPhone. This small collection of hacked websites were used in what was described as “indiscriminate” attacks against unsuspecting visitors for years, but the threat has been addressed by Apple.
If the attacks were successful, a monitoring implant would be installed on the targeted iPhone, able to steal private data including messages, photos, and GPS location in real time. Google estimated that thousands of visitors headed to these websites per week over the course of two years, and that iOS versions ranging from iOS 10 to iOS 12 were exploited.
There was no target discrimination; simply visiting the hacked site was enough for the exploit server to attack your device, and if it was successful, install a monitoring implant. We estimate that these sites receive thousands of visitors per week.
TAG was able to collect five separate, complete and unique iPhone exploit chains, covering almost every version from iOS 10 through to the latest version of iOS 12. This indicated a group making a sustained effort to hack the users of iPhones in certain communities over a period of at least two years.
Project Zero discovered exploits for a total of 14 vulnerabilities in iOS, seven for Safari, five for the kernel, and two separate sandbox escapes. The team reported these findings to Apple in February, and Apple’s release of iOS 12.1.4 that same month addressed the issues.
Google’s deep dive into the iOS exploit can be read on the company’s Project Zero blog.