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31 Oct, 2023 14:42

Indian MP seeks probe after Apple warns of ‘state-sponsored’ attack

The tech giant told several politicians and public figures that their iPhones were likely compromised by government-linked hackers
Indian MP seeks probe after Apple warns of ‘state-sponsored’ attack

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been asked to intervene after US tech giant Apple warned a number of politicians and public figures in the country that their iPhones have likely been compromised in a “state-sponsored” attack.

Opposition MP Priyanka Chaturvedi wrote to Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday, calling for action after receiving a notification from Apple regarding a possible government-linked attack.

Chaturvedi was among dozens of opposition politicians, prominent public figures, and journalists to get the email warning from the tech company. The notification suggested that they may have been targeted by “state-sponsored attackers,” who may have been trying to compromise their iPhones because of “who you are or what you do.”

I believe it is a violation of my fundamental rights and contrary to the laws of our country to engage in sophisticated hacking in an attempt to monitor my actions and movements,” Chaturvedi, who is a member of the Shiv Sena party, said in her letter to the Indian prime minister.

She added that the warning, if accurate, “raises serious questions” about the country’s intelligence agencies targeting opposition figures. A similar letter was addressed to Shah, asking for an investigation into the matter.

Several opposition leaders, including the Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, the Nationalist Congress Party’s Supriya Shrinate, Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), and Shashi Tharoor of the Congress party, said they had received similar notifications on their iPhones, saying that “state-sponsored attackers” were trying to hack their devices. 

Samir Saman, the president of the prominent Indian think tank, the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), as well as journalists Siddharth Vardarajan and Sriram Karri, said they too had received the alert. Tharoor said he had received the email from an Apple ID, which he claimed to have verified.

Apple does not attribute the threat notifications to any specific state-sponsored attacker,” the company said on Tuesday in a statement, cited by Times of India. “State-sponsored attackers are very well-funded and sophisticated, and their attacks evolve over time,” the US giant said, adding that detecting such attacks relies on threat intelligence signals that are “often imperfect and incomplete.

Apple also clarified that some threat notifications may be “false alarms, or that some attacks are not detected.” It said it was unable to provide information about what prompts such threat notifications, “as that may help state-sponsored attackers adapt their behavior to evade detection.

Ashwini Vaishnav, India’s minister of electronics and information technology, said the information from Apple on the issue seemed “vague and non-specific in nature.” Vaishnaw also said the company had issued the same advisory in 150 countries, Times Now reported.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), he said the government of India has been asked to “investigate” the matter. Vaishnaw added that Apple had been urged to assist the investigation with “real” and “accurate” information.