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A handful of lawmakers in India, especially the country’s opposition, received a notification from Apple, alerting them of possible state-sponsored attacks. Despite this, the Cupertino giant stated that the alerts could be “false alarms.”

Different lawmakers in India shared their experiences online after receiving the alerts this week, suggesting that the Indian government could be behind the move. On Tuesday, Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi confirmed the matter. Other political figures and two journalists also affirmed receiving the notification, which was sent ahead of the country’s general election.

“ALERT: State-sponsored attackers may be targeting your iPhone,” the alert reads. “Apple believes you are being targeted by state-sponsored attackers who are trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID. These attackers are likely targeting you individually because of who you are or what you do. If your device is compromised by a state-sponsored attacker, they may be able to remotely access your sensitive data, communications, or even the camera and microphone. While it’s possible this is a false alarm, please take this warning seriously.”

In response to the reports from the affected individuals, Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw expressed concern but tried to downplay the issue, calling the statements “estimations” and “vague.” Nonetheless, the minister said that the government is now probing the incident, adding Apple was asked to join.

On the other hand, despite confirming sending the alerts, the iPhone maker said it does not attribute the threat notifications to specific state-sponsored attackers.

“State-sponsored attackers are very well-funded and sophisticated, and their attacks evolve over time,” the company said in a statement. “Detecting such attacks relies on threat intelligence signals that are often imperfect and incomplete. It’s possible that some Apple threat notifications may be false alarms, or that some attacks are not detected. We are unable to provide information about what causes us to issue threat notifications, as that may help state-sponsored attackers adapt their behavior to evade detection in the future.”

This is not the first time reports of espionage were reported in the country. Currently, accusations of India using the Pegasus spyware continue, and the government still hasn’t admitted it. Traces of the spyware, nonetheless, were spotted in the devices of different influential individuals in the country in the past.

To protect its users from state-sponsored hacking activities, Apple introduced Lockdown Mode last year. While it disables several iPhone features, the mode effectively reduces the possible access of attackers to the device. In iOS 17.2, Apple will also be introducing another feature meant for politicians and activists. Called Contact Key Verification, the feature covers iMessage and gives users options to verify that the recipient of their messages is really the person they trust. According to Apple, if an “exceptionally advanced adversary” has managed to eavesdrop on the supposedly encrypted communications, the activated feature will provide automatic alerts. As the company noted, it will benefit people who “face extraordinary digital threats,” including journalists, human rights activists, and government officials.


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