In Brief

Apple iPhone can be hacked with just one tap

Tech giant issues emergency software update after malware scam allows hackers to spy on users

iPhone 6

Tech giant Apple has been forced to release an emergency software update for all iPhones after the discovery of a new piece of malware that allowed attackers to see virtually everything on a user's handset.

The hack, dubbed Trident, makes use of three so-called "zero day" vulnerabilities – flaws previously unknown to the security industry and so wide open to attack.

In this case, attackers can remotely jailbreak the phone and install spyware, giving them access to the iPhone's camera, microphone and chat apps such as WhatsApp without its owner knowing.

The attack was uncovered by Ahmed Mansoor, a human rights lawyer in the United Arab Emirates.

He was sent a series of texts promising to reveal secrets about human rights abuses in Emirati prisons if he opened a link. However, the links were triggers that would have automatically launched the malware attack.

Suspicious, Mansour forwarded the messages to researchers at Citizen Lab, a digital rights watchdog at the University of Toronto.

They found the malware most likely came from "an established private cyber-arms dealer called NSO Group, whose clientele primarily [consists of] governments", Wired reports.

Attempts to hack iPhones are nothing new, but Trident's sophistication is singling it out. Security researcher Mike Murray told Motherboard: "We realised that we were looking at something that no one had ever seen in the wild before. Literally a click on a link to jailbreak an iPhone in one step."

The massive security flaw "is as bad as it gets", adds Gizmodo.

Apple said it had acted quickly to counter the threat. "We were made aware of this vulnerability and immediately fixed it with iOS 9.3.5," it said. "We advise all of our customers to always download the latest version of iOS to protect themselves against potential security exploits."

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