A recent cyber espionage operation has come to light, involving the exploitation of three zero-day vulnerabilities in Apple devices. The targets of this operation were former Egyptian member of parliament Ahmed Eltantawy and individuals associated with him.
Furthermore, the attack, which occurred between May and September 2023, followed Eltantawy’s public announcement of his intention to run for the 2024 Egyptian presidential elections. The sophisticated spyware, known as Predator, was delivered through links sent via SMS and WhatsApp, with a network injection attack redirecting Eltantawy to a malicious website to infect his iPhone. These zero-day vulnerabilities allowed attackers to bypass security measures, elevate privileges, and execute remote code on the targeted devices.
Predator, developed by Cytrox, is a surveillance tool similar to NSO Group’s Pegasus, enabling surveillance of targets and data harvesting from compromised devices. It was previously blocklisted by the U.S. government for its involvement in human rights abuses and repression campaigns. The attack leveraged a network injection technique, redirecting HTTP website visitors to malicious sites. Additionally, it utilized a type confusion vulnerability (CVE-2023-4762) in the Chrome web browser to deliver Predator on Android devices.
Additionally, the joint investigation by Citizen Lab and Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) identified the attack as an adversary-in-the-middle (AitM) operation, exploiting HTTP website visits to intercept and redirect victims to malicious sites. The findings highlight the risks associated with surveillance tools and vulnerabilities in the telecom ecosystem.
To protect against such attacks, individuals are advised to keep their devices up-to-date and enable security features like Lockdown Mode on Apple devices, particularly if they are at risk of being targeted by spyware due to their activities or positions.