Apple Alerts Rahul, Tharoor, Raghav Of “State-Sponsored” Phone Attacks
India-West News Desk
NEW DELHI – Apple has told several Indian lawmakers from the opposition, that their iPhones are targets of state-sponsored attacks, several media outlets have reported.
Apple has also not commented further after the alert was sent to the politicians but issued a statement, confirming sending the threat notifications but refrained from attributing them to any specific state-sponsored attacker. Apple stated, “State-sponsored attackers are very well-funded and sophisticated, and their attacks evolve over time. Detecting such attacks relies on threat intelligence signals that are often imperfect and incomplete. 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.”
Prominent leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor of the Congress party, Akhilesh Yadav, the head of the Samajwadi Party, Mahua Moitra, a national representative from the All India Trinamool Congress, and Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena, have confirmed receiving alerts from Apple regarding potential security threats to their iPhones. Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Raghav Chadha from AAP, Sitaram Yechury, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India, and Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera have also reported similar warnings.
Prominent journalists Siddharth Varadarajan and Sriram Karri, along with Observer Research Foundation India President Samir Saran, have shared that they too received identical threat notifications from Apple.
India’s IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw expressed concern over the matter and stated that the government is investigating. He downplayed the allegations, describing the threat notifications as vague.
India has faced accusations of deploying the Pegasus spyware, which is blacklisted by the U.S. government, on activists and opposition leaders for years. The Financial Times reported in March that the Indian government was seeking new spyware contracts, TechCrunch noted.
Apple has previously recommended users receiving such alerts to activate the Lockdown mode, a security measure unveiled in 2022, aimed at safeguarding individuals like journalists, politicians, attorneys, and human rights advocates from state-sponsored spyware intrusions. This mode restricts certain functionalities, including minimizing Safari features, disabling attachments, and blocking FaceTime calls from unfamiliar contacts.
Since introducing the threat notifications feature, Apple has alerted individuals in nearly 150 countries.