Cytrox’s Predator Spyware Attacks: State-Sponsored Cyber Espionage

Mr. Abhishek Singh
Mr. Abhishek Singh
Lead – Policy and Advocacy
Sep 26, 2023


Former Egyptian MP Ahmed Eltantawy was targeted with Cytrox’s predator spyware through links sent via SMS and WhatsApp. Former Egyptian MP Ahmed Eltantawy has been targeted with Cytrox’s Predator spyware in a campaign believed to be state-sponsored cyber espionage. After Eltantawy made his intention to run for president in the 2024 elections known, the targeting took place between May and September 2023. The spyware was distributed using links sent via SMS and WhatsApp, network injection, and visits to certain websites by Eltantawy. The Citizen Lab examined the assaults with the help of Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG), and they were able to acquire an iPhone zero-day exploit chain that was designed to be used to install spyware on iOS versions up to 16.6.1.

Investigation: The Ahmed Eltantawy Incident

Eltantawy's device was forensically examined by The Citizen Lab, which uncovered several efforts to use Cytrox's Predator spyware to target him. In the investigation, The Citizen Lab and TAG discovered an iOS exploit chain utilised in the attacks against Eltantawy. They started a responsible disclosure procedure with Apple, and as a consequence, it resulted in the release of updates patching the vulnerabilities used by the exploit chain. Mobile zero-day exploit chains may be quite expensive, with black market values for them exceeding millions of dollars. The Citizen Lab also identified several domain names and IP addresses associated with Cytrox’s Predator spyware. Additionally, a network injection method was also utilised to get the malware onto Eltantawy's phone, according to the study. He would be discreetly routed to a malicious website using network injection when he went to certain websites that weren't HTTPS.

What is Cyber Espionage?

Cyber espionage, also referred to as cyber spying, is a sort of cyberattack in which an unauthorised user tries to obtain confidential or sensitive information or intellectual property (IP) for financial gain, business benefit, or political objectives.

Apple's Response: A Look at iOS Vulnerability Patching

Users are advised to keep their devices up-to-date and enable lockdown Mode on iPhones. Former Egyptian MP targeted with predator spyware ahead of 2024 presidential run hence Update your macOS Ventura, iOS, and iPadOS devices, as Apple has released emergency updates to address the flaws. Apple has Released Emergency Updates Amid Citizen Lab’s Disclosure. Apple has issued three emergency updates for iOS, iPadOS (1), and macOS Ventura (2).

The updates address the following vulnerabilities:




Apple customers are advised to immediately install these emergency security updates to protect themselves against potential targeted spyware attacks. By updating promptly, users will ensure that their devices are secure and cannot be compromised by such attacks exploiting these particular zero-day vulnerabilities. Hence it is advisable to maintain up-to-date software and enable security features in your Apple devices.


Ahmed Eltantawy, a former Egyptian MP and presidential candidate, was targeted with Cytrox’s Predator spyware after announcing his bid for the presidency.  He was targeted by Cytrox Predator Spyware Campaign. Such an incident is believed to be State-Sponsored Cyber Espionage.  The incident raises the question of loss of privacy and shows the mala fide intention of the political opponents. The investigation Findings reveal that Ahmed Eltantawy was the victim of a sophisticated cyber espionage campaign that leveraged Cytrox’s Predator spyware. Apple advised that all users are urged to update their  Apple devices. This case raises alarming concerns about the lack of controls on the export of spyware technologies and underscores the importance of security updates and lockdown modes on Apple devices.


Sep 26, 2023
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