Additional notifications were reported by other opposition leaders, namely PawanKhera, SitaramYechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and AsaduddinOwaisi, an MP representing the AIMIM.
Opposition figures representing various political ideologies, including Shashi Tharoor from the Congress party, Raghav Chadha from the AamAadmi Party (AAP), and MahuaMoitra from the Trinamool Congress (TMC), asserted on Tuesday that they had received a notification from Apple. This notification alerted them to the possibility of a spyware attack, maybe sponsored by a state actor, targeting their iPhones.
In addition to Shashi Tharoor, members of the Congress party such as PawanKhera and SupriyaShrinate, SitaramYechury from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Priyanka Chaturvedi from the Shiv Sena, AsaduddinOwaisi from the All India Majlis-e-IttehadulMuslimeen, and Raghav Chadha from the AamAadmi Party have also reported receiving comparable notifications.
In response to the charges, Apple released a statement asserting that it refrains from attributing the threat notifications to any particular state-sponsored assailant. State-sponsored attackers are characterized by substantial financial resources and a high level of sophistication, which enables them to continually enhance their attack strategies. The identification of such attacks is dependent on the utilization of threat intelligence signals, which frequently exhibit imperfections and incompleteness. On Thursday, the technology business stated that there is a possibility of certain Apple threat notifications being erroneous, or that certain attacks may go undetected. The disclosure of the factors leading to the issuance of threat notifications is not feasible due to the potential implications of aiding state-sponsored attackers in modifying their tactics to avoid detection in subsequent instances.
It has been observed that individuals in 150 countries have received threat notices since Apple commenced the dissemination of these alerts in late 2021.
MahuaMoitra, a Member of Parliament from the Trinamool Congress (TMC), is now undergoing an examination by the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee about her involvement in a cash-for-query incident within the Parliament. On Tuesday, Moitra made an accusation that the government is actively attempting to gain unauthorized access to her mobile phone.
According to Moitra, the aforementioned activity was being conducted targeting politicians like former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, AamAadmi Party leaderRaghavChaddha, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader SitaramYechury, Congress figures Shashi Tharoor and PawanKhera, as well as those associated with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
Quoting an alleged electronic message she claimed to have gotten from Apple, the user said on platform X, “I have received a text message and email from Apple alerting me to the government’s attempt to gain unauthorized access to my mobile device and email account.” @HMOIndia – Please consider focusing on more meaningful endeavors. The actions of Adani and the Prime Minister’s Office can be perceived as bullying, evoking a sense of empathy towards them due to their evident fear.
In reference to Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena, Moitra indicated that three politicians affiliated with the INDIA coalition had similarly received communications from Apple. The individual with the Twitter handle “@priyankac19” stated that she, together with myself and three other individuals from India, have achieved the desired outcome thus far.
In a further statement, the individual mentioned, “Thus far, the individuals of Indian origin that the Ministry of Home Affairs of India (@HMOIndia) has allegedly attempted to compromise include myself, @yadavakhilesh, @raghav_chadha, @ShashiTharoor, @priyankac19, @SitaramYechury, @Pawankhera, and other individuals affiliated with the office of @RahulGandhi.”
She said, “This situation is more severe than the Emergency period.” India is currently governed by those who engage in unethical behavior, including invading others’ privacy.
Moitra expressed her intention to correspond with Om Birla, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, on the occurrence, as stated in a subsequent communication.
I am writing a formal letter to the esteemed @loksabhaspeaker @ombirlakota, urging him to adhere to the principles of RajDharma in order to safeguard the interests of Opposition Members of Parliament. Additionally, I kindly urge that he expeditiously call officials from @HMOIndia to address the matter of our phones and email accounts being compromised. The Privileges Committee should address this matter. In a post on X, the individual expressed concern about the breach, emphasizing its authenticity and urging AshwiniVaishnaw to take appropriate measures.
Congress leader Tharoor also referenced the Apple statement. The individual made a post on platform X, stating, “I have received a message from an Apple ID, specifically [email protected], and I have confirmed its authenticity.” The authenticity has been verified. I am pleased to observe that the engagement of underemployed authorities is effectively utilized, albeit at the financial burden of taxpayers such as myself. Is there no other task of greater significance to attend to? The user’s text mentions the Twitter handles of the Prime Minister of India, the Indian National Congress, and specific individuals associated with the Congress party.
The Congress leader, Shrinate, inquired, “What is the nature or significance of this situation?” What is the reason behind the high prevalence of individuals contracting the virus? Acquire a meaningful existence, for individuals who are experiencing a lack of success.
In addition to Priyanka Chaturvedi, Moitra shared a screenshot of the email she received from Apple. The notification indicated that there is a possibility of state-sponsored attackers directing their efforts toward compromising the security of your iPhone device.
According to the statement, Apple asserts that the individual in question is the intended recipient of malicious activities orchestrated by state-sponsored assailants, who are endeavoring to remotely exploit the iPhone linked to their Apple ID. The perpetrators are presumed to be specifically focusing their attacks on the individual user due to their personal identity or professional occupation. In the event that an individual’s device is penetrated by a state-sponsored attacker, there exists the potential for remote access to sensitive data, communications, and camera and microphone functionalities. Although there is a possibility that this could be a false alarm, it is imperative to treat this warning with utmost seriousness.
Moitra additionally disclosed the receipt of a text message from Apple, which conveyed the same information.
Chaturvedi posted a tweet containing comparable screenshots, expressing curiosity about the identity of the individual in question. The actions you have taken are morally reprehensible. Dear HMOIndia, I am writing to bring to your attention an important matter.
Chaturvedi has corresponded with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, expressing the need for a thorough investigation into the individuals within the state who are involved in unauthorized attempts to access and monitor their phones and activities. This misuse of authority warrants urgent attention.
The Member of Parliament from the Shiv Sena (UBT) party characterized the incident as a transgression of her fundamental rights.
AsaduddinOwaisi, a prominent member of the All India Majlis-e-IttehadulMuslimeen (AIMIM), shared on a social media platform that he also received a notification from Apple indicating a potential threat on Monday evening.
Chadha, a representative of the AAP, reported receiving a notification on Tuesday regarding a possible state-sponsored infiltration of his mobile device. In a written entry, Chadha stated, “This notification is reminiscent of the Pegasus spyware scandal which also had targeted many voices that are critical of the BJP.”
Chaddhafurther commented, “This snooping is happening as we are merely months away from a General Election. It must also be placed within the broader attacks on the opposition who are facing relentless repression by investigatory agencies, politically motivated criminal cases and incarceration.”
Describing it as an assault on the democratic welfare of the nation, the leader of the AAP asserted, “These attacks are not on me as an individual, or one opposition party but the common people of India. As it is not about my phone or my data alone. Every Indian needs to be worried. Because today it is me, tomorrow it could be YOU.”.
PawanKhera, a prominent member of the Congress party, also disseminated the screenshot and posed the question, “Dear Modi Sarkar, what is the rationale behind your actions?”
On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi, a prominent leader of the Congress party, asserted that individuals within his office, as well as various party members and opposition leaders, have received notifications from Apple cautioning them about potential state-sponsored cyber attackers targeting their mobile devices. Gandhi further alleged that whenever the Adani issue is addressed, investigative agencies and surveillance measures are promptly deployed.
During a press conference, Gandhi presented a document containing an email notification received by multiple leaders of the opposition, which originated from the manufacturer of Apple phones. The email warned of the presence of state-sponsored attackers who were attempting to undermine the security of their devices.
In addition to politicians, certain members of civil society also asserted such claims. The President of the Observer Research Foundation, Samir Saran, recently shared on a social media platform that he received a notification from Apple, informing him that his iPhone, which is connected to his Apple ID, is being subjected to targeting efforts. I have successfully implemented the remedial measures recommended by Apple on the device and am also seeking guidance from specialists in the field.
As per an official update dated August 22, 2003, available on Apple’s website, the company states that the purpose of threat notifications is to provide information and support to users who may have been subjected to targeting by state-sponsored attackers. According to the post, individuals are selectively targeted based on their personal attributes or professional activities. It also asserts that the occurrence of such attacks is rather infrequent, with the majority of users unlikely to be subjected to such targeting.
In the event that Apple identifies “activity that aligns with a state-sponsored attack,” it will proceed to inform the affected users through a threat notification prominently displayed on the webpage. Additionally, Apple will send notifications via email and iMessage to the email addresses and phone numbers linked to the user’s Apple ID.
Subsequently, users are informed about the measures they can take to safeguard their devices, which encompasses the activation of Lockdown Mode.
What Are State-Sponsored Hackers That All These Politicians Mentioning?
State-sponsored hackers refer to people or collectives who engage in cyber attacks, espionage, or other malevolent cyber operations under the auspices of a governmental or state organization. The hackers in question often exhibit substantial financial resources and demonstrate a high level of expertise and access to modern technological resources, enabling them to execute intricate and focused cyber assaults. The motivations of individuals can exhibit variability, encompassing a range of factors such as political, military, or economic purposes.
State-sponsored cyber attackers have the potential to engage in various malicious activities, such as the theft of confidential data, the disruption of essential infrastructure, the execution of espionage operations, or the manipulation of political events. A diverse array of targets can be subjected to their operations, encompassing various institutions like as governments, corporations, individuals, and critical infrastructure.
The operations conducted by hackers supported by governmental entities frequently exhibit clandestine characteristics, making it difficult to ascertain the responsible governments due to the implementation of proxies, encryption, and other strategies aimed at obfuscating their true identity and geographical position. However, there is a growing global emphasis among governments on the detection and mitigation of such risks, given the substantial potential ramifications associated with cyber assaults sponsored by nation-states.
About The Author:
Yogesh Naager is a content marketer who specializes in the cybersecurity and B2B space. Besides writing for the News4Hackers blog, he’s also written for brands including CollegeDunia, Utsav Fashion, and NASSCOM. Naager entered the field of content in an unusual way. He began his career as an insurance sales executive, where he developed an interest in simplifying difficult concepts. He also combines this interest with a love of narrative, which makes him a good writer in the cybersecurity field. In the bottom line, he frequently writes for Craw Security.
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