Bad Apples: How CNA Attacks Put Everyone At Risk


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On September 14, 2021, two unrelated incidents demonstrated not only the vulnerability of users to state-sponsored attacks but the fact that defenders are relegated to playing “cat and mouse” with attackers (including government attackers), and the fact that when we provide computer and network attack (CNA) tools just to the “good guys”—we really don’t know that they are, in fact, “good” and that they’re using the tools only for “good.”

The first incident involves former U.S. intelligence agents who were criminally charged with developing and deploying sophisticated zero-click CNA tools for the UAE government, targeting Apple devices including iPhones. The second incident involves continuing revelations that Israeli company NSO Group’s Pegasus project was doing the same for some of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. Indeed, the sophistication and capabilities of these exploits to CVE-2021-30860 were so dangerous that Apple sent out an emergency patch and encouraged all users of all connected Apple products to immediately patch their devices.

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