What you need to know
- iPhones weren't the only target.
- Android and Windows were also affected.
- The attackers wanted to infect devices belonging to the Uighur ethnic group in China.
Last week Google's Project Zero team told us all that a number of unnamed websites had been hacking iPhones for years, infecting them with malware. But both Android and Windows devices were also targeted according to a new report from Forbes.
Forbes cites "multiple sources with knowledge of the situation" when it says that the real target of the attack was the Uighur ethnic group in China, rather than any particular subset of devices. The community has often found itself targeted by the Chinese government, leading some to suggest that is once again the case here.
This of course means that contrary to Google's initial blog post this wasn't an attempt to compromise iPhones specifically. Somewhat oddly, Google didn't disclose the websites that were the source of the attack although it did say that Apple patched the exploit they were using back in February.
Neither Android nor Windows were mentioned in the announcement post and it isn't clear whether Microsoft was informed or not. We also don't yet know whether Google was even aware that its own mobile operating system, let alone Windows, were being attacked by the same websites.
Cynics will say that Google pointed the finger squarely at Apple and its iPhone in an attempt to win points in the smartphone security battle. Android has had its fair share of security failings in recent years and the opportunity to bloody the nose of a competitor may have simply been too good to refuse.
Google hadn't responded to Forbes' request for comment at the time of writing.
Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.
This story is horrible. Apple, Google and any other should be legally required to disclose the nature and scope of these breaches as soon as they patch them.
The Forbes article says that there is a possibility that Android and Windows were targeted, not that they were successfully attacked like iOS was.
In some cases Android will be successfully attacked when iOS isn't, in some cases Windows will be successfully attacked when neither iOS or Android are. All the OSes are pretty evenly matched when it comes to security
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