iPhone owners under attack — Apple issues stark warning in 92 countries over 'mercenary spyware'

an iphone 15 pro is pictured resting inside its packaging

iPhone owners around the world have recieved a threat notification from Apple about a sophisticated 'mercenrayr spyware' attempting to access personal information and sensitive data stored on the device

Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 11/04/2024

- 11:19

Updated: 11/04/2024

- 13:03

Apple has detected a sophisticated spyware attack on iPhone owners worldwide

  • Apple has issued a threat notification to users across 92 countries
  • This warns that "mercenary spyware" has tried to access your device
  • These critical attacks usually single-out high-ranking politicians

iPhone owners are under attack across 92 countries worldwide, Apple has warned.

The Californian company issued threat notifications to iPhone owners across 92 countries, cautioning individuals that they might have been targetted by a "mercenary spyware attack" that has attempted to "remotely compromise" their device.

Apple has not revealed the identity of the attackers, nor the countries where users received the warnings.

If attackers attempt to use spyware to access your iPhone, you'll receive an alert that reads: “Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack that is trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID."

a screenshot of the icloud online portal with a threat notification at the top waiting to be read

An example of the Threat Notification issued to your Apple ID — the account used to sign-in to iPhone, iPad, Mac and other Apple devices to sync services like iMessage, App Store purchases, and more


“This attack is likely targeting you specifically because of who you are or what you do. Although it’s never possible to achieve absolute certainty when detecting such attacks, Apple has high confidence in this warning — please take it seriously,” the iPhone manufacturer adds.

This notification will be available on any device signed in with your Apple ID, the account used to access all Apple services like the App Store on your iPhone, iPad, Mac and more. It will also appear on iCloud.com.

The warning has been seen by TechCrunch and Reuters, although Apple has not shared the contents of the message, nor the complete list of countries where users have been targetted in this new attack.

If you've received a threat notification from Apple, you should seek emergency assistance immediately. Digital civil rights non-profit Access Now offers a 24/7 helpline in nine languages. It works with individuals and organisations around the world to keep them safe from sophisticated threats.

Haven't been sent a notification from Apple, but are still worried about the security of your iPhone? The US company introduced Stolen Device Protection to devices worldwide that require a biometric check before making any substantial changes — preventing bad actors who have access to an unlocked iPhone from making critical changes to your password, location permissions, or other settings.

Apple is forced to issue these kinds of warnings multiple times every year. In total, the Californian company has sent notifications to iPhone owners in over 150 countries since 2021, an Apple Support page reveals.

"The extreme cost, sophistication, and worldwide nature of mercenary spyware attacks makes them some of the most advanced digital threats in existence today. As a result, Apple does not attribute the attacks or resulting threat notifications to any specific attackers or geographical regions," the company explains.

Until recently, Apple referred to these types of sophisticated attacks as “state-sponsored”, but has now changed the phraseology to “mercenary spyware attacks.” Both of these terms describe spyware and other attacks that are much more sophisticated than your average malware of the type that sometimes creeps into the Google Play Store and other app marketplaces. These are usually funded by nation-states and used to target specific individuals, including high-profile politicians, whistle-blowers, and journalists.

Last October, Apple sent a similar warning to select journalists and politicians in India.


Nonprofit advocacy group Amnesty International later reported that it had found Israeli cyber-arms company NSO Group's invasive spyware Pegasus secretly installed on the iPhones of prominent journalists in India. Like last year, iPhone owners in India are amongst the users spread across 92 countries who received the latest threat notification, Reuters reports.

You may like