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Business News/ News / India/  Opposition MPs, journalists receive ‘state-sponsored attack’ alerts on their Apple IDs. Explained
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Opposition MPs, journalists receive ‘state-sponsored attack’ alerts on their Apple IDs. Explained

According to the screengrabs shared by Mahua Moitra, Raghav Chadha, Shashi Tharoor, Priyanka Chaturvedi, the email header read, 'ALERT: State-sponsored attackers may be targeting your iPhone'

The threat notification email was received by the Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, AAP MP Raghav Chadha, and others at 11:45 pm on 30 October 2023. (PTI)Premium
The threat notification email was received by the Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, AAP MP Raghav Chadha, and others at 11:45 pm on 30 October 2023. (PTI)

Opposition leaders in India, including Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Raghav Chadha, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, and two journalists on Tuesday claimed that they received an alert on their iPhones, Apple IDs purportedly alerting them against ‘state-sponsored’ attacks or hackers who were trying to gain access to the leaders' sensitive information, and access to the microphone and camera on their respective devices.

What did the alert message read?

According to the screengrabs shared by the politicians, and journalists who received the alert message on their iPhones, the email header read, “ALERT: State-sponsored attackers may be targeting your iPhone".

The email further read, "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.", it added.

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Notably, the email was received by the politicians and journalists at 11:45 pm on 30 October 2023.

Who received the alert message?

Collating posts on microblogging site ‘X’ and media reports, these are the people who received the alert message

-Mahua Moitra (Trinamool Congress MP)

-Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena UBT MP)

-Raghav Chadha (AAP MP)

-Shashi Tharoor (Congress MP)

-Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM MP)

-Sitaram Yechury (CPI(M) general secretary and former MP)

-Pawan Khera (Congress spokesperson)

-Akhilesh Yadav (Samajwadi Party president)

-Siddharth Varadarajan (founding editor, The Wire)

-Sriram Karri (resident editor, Deccan Chronicle)

-Samir Saran (president, Observer Research Foundation)

-Revathi (independent journalist)

-K.C. Venugopal (Congress MP)

-Supriya Sule (NCP MP)

-Multiple people who work in Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s office

-Revanth Reddy (Congress MP)

-T.S. Singhdeo (Chhattisgarh deputy CM and Congress leader)

-Ravi Nair (independent journalist)

-KT Rama Rao (Telangana minister and BRS leader)

Apple calls alert message ‘false alarm’

iPhone-maker Apple Inc said it does not attribute threat notifications, such as the ones received by Opposition MPs, to any specific state-sponsored attackers.

State-sponsored attackers, it said, 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. It's possible that some Apple threat notifications may be false alarms, or that some attacks are not detected," it said.

It, however, refused to say what triggered warnings received by MPs, such as Mahua Moitra of TMC.

"We are unable to provide information about what causes us to issue threat notifications, as that may help state-sponsored attackers adapt their behaviour to evade detection in the future," Apple said.

What is Apple Threat Notification?

iPhone has been a favourite device for many high-profile users owing to Apple's threat notification services. The threat notification on Apple iPhones “inform and assist users who may have been targeted by state-sponsored attackers". 

Apple's official website reads “Unlike traditional cybercriminals, state-sponsored attackers apply exceptional resources to target a very small number of specific individuals and their devices, which makes these attacks much harder to detect and prevent. State-sponsored attacks are highly complex, cost millions of dollars to develop and often have a short shelf life. The vast majority of users will never be targeted by such attacks". 

Apple suggestion to protect iPhones against threats

-Update devices to the latest software, as that includes the latest security fixes

-Protect devices with a passcode

-Use two-factor authentication and a strong password for Apple ID

-Install apps from the App Store

-Use strong and unique passwords online

-Don’t click on links or attachments from unknown senders

How Indian government reacted?

Denying the claims of Opposition MPs, Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the people who cannot see the growth of the country are doing destructive politics. The Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology said that such advisories have been sent to people in 150 countries.

BJP IT Cell chief Amit Malviya refuted the opposition's claim of their phones being hacked by the Centre saying that it is "absolutely baseless."

How Opposition MPs reacted? 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi targeted the Modi government over the "Apple warning message" and said it was trying to divert the attention of people from real issues.

TMC MP Mahua Moitra said she will be writing to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla requesting him to follow Raj Dharma to protect opposition MPs over the purported warning by Apple of “state-sponsored attackers trying to remotely compromise" her iPhone.

"Received from an Apple ID, HYPERLINK "mailto:threat-notifications@apple.com"threat-notifications@apple.com, which I have verified. Authenticity confirmed. Glad to keep underemployed officials busy at the expenses of taxpayers like me! Nothing more important to do?" Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor said on X. 

(With agency inputs)

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Published: 31 Oct 2023, 03:42 PM IST
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