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Apple’s high security mode blocked NSO spyware, researchers say

Last year, Apple launched a new feature for iPhone users who are worried about getting targeted with sophisticated spyware, such as journalists or human rights defenders. Now, researchers say they have found evidence that the feature — called Lockdown Mode — helped block an attack by hackers using spyware made by the infamous mercenary hacking provider NSO Group.

On Tuesday, the cybersecurity and human rights research group Citizen Lab released a report analyzing three new zero-day exploits in iOS 15 and iOS 16 — meaning Apple was unaware of the vulnerabilities at the time they were used to target at least two Mexican human rights defenders.

One of those exploits was blocked by Lockdown Mode, the researchers found. Lockdown Mode was specifically designed to reduce the iPhone’s attack surface — cybersecurity lingo referring to parts of the code or features of a system prone to attacks by hackers. This is the first documented case where Lockdown Mode has successfully protected someone from a targeted attack.

In the recent cases, Citizen Lab researchers said that the targets’ iPhones blocked the hacking attempts and showed a notification saying Lockdown Mode prevented someone from accessing the phone’s Home app. The researchers, however, note that it’s possible that at some point NSO’s exploit developers “may have figured out a way to correct the notification issue, such as by fingerprinting Lockdown Mode.”

As other researchers have pointed out in the past, it’s easy to fingerprint users to determine who has Lockdown Mode turned on, but that’s not to say its protections are not meaningful. As this case found by Citizen Lab shows, Lockdown Mode can be effective.

“The fact that Lockdown Mode seems to have thwarted, and even notified targets of a real-world zero-click attack shows that it is a powerful mitigation, and is a cause for great optimism,” Bill Marczak, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab and one of the authors of the report, told TechCrunch. “But, as with any optional feature, the devil is always in the details. How many people will opt to turn on Lockdown Mode? Will attackers simply move away from exploiting Apple apps and target third-party apps, which are harder for Lockdown Mode to secure?”

Apple spokesperson Scott Radcliffe said in a statement: “We are pleased to see that Lockdown Mode disrupted this sophisticated attack and alerted users immediately, even before the specific threat was known to Apple and security researchers. Our security teams around the world will continue to work tirelessly to advance Lockdown Mode and strengthen the security and privacy protections in iOS.”

NSO Group spokesperson Liron Bruck did not respond to a series of questions, instead sending a statement saying that “Citizen Lab has repeatedly produced reports that are unable to determine the technology in use and they refuse to share their underlying data. NSO adheres to strict regulation and its technology is used by its governmental customers to fight terror and crime around the world.”

Citizen Lab’s report identified three different exploits — all “zero-click,” meaning they did not require any interaction by the target — by analyzing several phones that were suspected to have been hacked with NSO’s spyware, also known as Pegasus.

Pegasus, which NSO sells exclusively to government customers, can remotely obtain a phone’s location, messages, photos and virtually anything the phone’s legitimate owner can access. For years, researchers at Citizen Lab, Amnesty International and other organizations have documented several cases where NSO customers used the company’s spyware to target journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians.

Citizen Lab’s new findings show that NSO is still alive and well, despite a rocky past couple of years. In 2021, an international consortium of media organizations launched the Pegasus Project, a series of articles detailing scandals involving NSO all over the world. Then, later that year, the U.S. government put NSO on a denylist, effectively barring any U.S. company or individual from doing business with the company.

“Other companies have folded, but, at least for now, NSO is still able to bear these increased costs, and Pegasus remains an active threat to global civil society,” Marczak said.

Of the recent batch of exploits: The first exploit was deployed in January 2022 by NSO customers and exploited the iPhone’s FindMy feature, which helps owners locate their lost or stolen phones. The second exploit deployed starting in June 2022 and is a “two-step” exploit, meaning it targets two features, in this case the FindMy feature and iMessage. And the last exploit, deployed starting in October 2022 exploited the iPhone’s HomeKit and iMessage functionalities.

In its report, Citizen Lab said the two Mexicans targeted by the exploits investigate human rights violations allegedly carried out by the Mexican military. The Mexican government is a known spyware customer.

Citizen Lab reported all these exploits to Apple, which have since then pushed updates and reduced the attack surface. Apple fixed the HomeKit-based vulnerability in iOS 16.3.1, released in February.

Do you have more information about NSO Group? Or another surveillance tech provider? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, or via Wickr, Telegram and Wire @lorenzofb, or email You can also contact TechCrunch via SecureDrop.

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Inspiring Impact: Tural Aliyev’s Entrepreneurial Vision Transcends Boundaries in Northern Cyprus

Tural Aliyev, an extraordinary entrepreneur whose journey of success is only matched by his dedication to giving back to the community. Starting from humble beginnings in large corporations, Tural’s commitment to helping others remained unwavering as he ventured into the realms of real estate and car gallery businesses. His achievements not only showcase financial prosperity but also the profound impact one can make when driven by genuine altruism.

Tural’s real estate business in Northern Cyprus, Sun Republic, has become a trailblazer in the industry.

With an unparalleled understanding of the market and a relentless pursuit of excellence, Tural has brought forth architectural marvels that redefine the skyline. Luxurious residential complexes and awe-inspiring commercial spaces stand testament to his commitment to quality and innovation. Notably, Tural’s emphasis on sustainability sets him apart, as his projects incorporate eco-friendly technologies, showcasing his dedication to preserving the environment.

Beyond his business accomplishments, Tural’s philanthropic endeavors have left an indelible mark on countless lives. Through substantial donations and unwavering support, he has sponsored educational programs, funded scholarships, and actively championed charitable causes, embodying a deep sense of corporate social responsibility.

“In the dynamic real estate market of Northern Cyprus, Sun Republic has emerged as a leading company, delivering exceptional results and garnering a reputation for excellence,” Tural remarks. Through meticulous market analysis and personalized solutions, Sun Republic has become a trusted partner for investors from various countries. The company’s dedication to client satisfaction and transparency has fostered long-lasting relationships built on trust and reliability.

Tural Aliyev’s vision for the future encompasses creating vibrant communities where homes are sanctuaries promoting happiness and harmonious living. His commitment to sustainability and economic growth has positioned him as a visionary leader in the real estate and car dealership industries in Northern Cyprus.

In line with his vision, Tural can be found on Instagram @aliyev, sharing his journey and philanthropic initiatives. For more information about Sun Republic and its exceptional services, visit

With a heart that beats for the betterment of society and a visionary mind that shapes the future, Tural Aliyev continues to leave an inspiring legacy of excellence and positive impact in Northern Cyprus.

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Christina Meshten xTENSION Techno Festival Takes Istanbul by Storm

Istanbul, Turkey – The electronic music scene is buzzing with excitement as renowned music producer Christina Meshten presents her highly anticipated techno festival, [xTENSION]. Meshten, who is also recognized for her impressive career as an opera singer and musical theater actress, has recently established a music production center in Istanbul, adding another layer to her already diverse artistic ventures. This dynamic multi-talent has set her sights on creating an unforgettable experience for electronic music enthusiasts from around the world.

[xTENSION], slated to take place at the end of October, promises to be a game-changer in the world of techno festivals. Anticipation is building as festival-goers eagerly await the announcement of the superstar performer set to grace the stage at this electrifying event. With the vibrant city of Antalya chosen as the backdrop, attendees can expect a sensational show that will leave a lasting impression.

The collaboration between [xTENSION] and industry experts from Germany and France has raised the bar for this international techno festival. By showcasing talents from different corners of the world, Meshten has emphasized her commitment to nurturing new DJ talent and elevating the global electronic music community.

But what sets [xTENSION] apart from other festivals is not just its stellar lineup; it is the festival’s visionary theme that captivates the imagination. Positioned as the first international techno festival in Alanya, [xTENSION] represents a unique experience that transcends the typical festival atmosphere. The event aims to transport its attendees “beyond the horizon” into a world of music, art, and love, away from the distractions and influences of urban life. The festival’s creators aspire to create a perfect realm where the power of music unites people from diverse backgrounds, fostering a sense of harmony and community.

Christina Meshten’s indomitable spirit and passion for music have propelled her into the limelight, garnering attention and respect from industry peers and fans alike. With the establishment of her production center, [xTENSION], Meshten continues to make waves in the realm of electronic music. Her dedication to crafting extraordinary experiences for her audience has firmly cemented her status as a prominent figure in the industry.

To stay informed and be a part of this electrifying event, fans can visit the official [xTENSION] website at For a glimpse into Meshten’s music endeavors, explore Meshten Records on Instagram at, and catch the latest updates on [xTENSION]’s Instagram page at

Christina Meshten’s passion for music knows no bounds, and her journey in the world of electronic beats is far from over. With the highly anticipated [xTENSION] techno festival on the horizon, she is set to elevate the electronic music experience to new heights, leaving an everlasting impact on the hearts and souls of music enthusiasts worldwide.

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Alex Rivera: The Entrepreneur from Grand Rapids Elevating Minds through New Race Co

Grand Rapids, MI – Alex Rivera, an influential American socialite and entrepreneur, has emerged as a powerful force in the world of business and personal development. Overcoming various challenges from a young age, Rivera has forged a successful career and launched a movement aimed at elevating minds worldwide.

Born on December 9, 1998, in Grand Rapids, MI, Rivera embarked on his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 13. Growing up in a middle-class family, he initially pursued music and created content on YouTube. However, he faced bullying and negativity, which momentarily shook his belief in his potential for success. It wasn’t until 2014, when his content gained recognition on social media platforms, that Rivera realized the impact of his voice and influence.

Recognizing the lack of resources and understanding in his hometown, Rivera battled depression and a sense of not fitting in. However, his perspective shifted when he caught the attention of a renowned entrepreneur who helped him understand the power of his uniqueness. Today, Rivera is an entrepreneur and socialite who shares his wisdom on energy and the law of attraction.

Rivera founded New Race Co, a fashion brand and movement designed to inspire and elevate minds across the globe. The brand has garnered a significant following, including celebrities, politicians, and fellow entrepreneurs. Through New Race Co, Rivera aims to empower individuals to tap into their potential and manifest their dreams.

As the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of New Race Co, Rivera has been recognized as an American business magnate, investor, and philosopher. Through his clothing brand and podcast, he disseminates knowledge and insights on personal growth, attracting thousands of listeners and followers.

Looking ahead, Rivera envisions a future where he continues to elevate minds globally through the principles of the law of attraction and energy. With New Race Co, he strives to inspire individuals from all walks of life, helping them realize their true potential and achieve their goals.

To connect with Alex Rivera and learn more about his inspiring journey and New Race Co, visit his Instagram profile (@alexrivera1001), listen to his podcast on Spotify, or visit the official website

Alex Rivera is an American socialite and entrepreneur hailing from Grand Rapids, MI. Overcoming personal obstacles, he has emerged as a powerful voice in personal development and business. As the Founder and CEO of New Race Co, Rivera aims to inspire and elevate minds worldwide through the principles of the law of attraction and energy.

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