Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab said the software exploit had been in use since February and was used to deploy Pegasus, spyware made by Israeli firm NSO Group that was allegedly used to monitor journalists and human rights defenders in several countries.
Apple credited Citizen Lab researchers with discovering the vulnerability, but an Apple spokesperson declined to comment further.
NSO Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the research. The company said its software was only sold to customers approved for anti-terrorism and law enforcement purposes.
The researchers say, however, they have found several cases in which the spyware was deployed on dissidents or journalists. In 2019, Citizen Lab analysts alleged that Pegasus was used on the cell phone of the wife of a murdered Mexican journalist.