‘Virus’ likely behind Apple threat notification, official says | Business News


A senior official Thursday said a government investigation has found a virus to be the likely cause of Apple’s threat notifications to several Indian Opposition politicians and journalists.

“The (Centre’s) investigation has progressed quite a lot. Nothing major has come out of it so far. What we have found is that there was some vulnerability in Apple’s systems for a period and during that time, many people around the world tried to spread some virus on Apple devices,” said the official from the Information Technology Ministry.

Asked why Apple had labelled the attack “state-sponsored”, this official said: “State actor is a standard language used by everyone. These companies use it because nobody wants to take the responsibility. It is natural that no one wants to accept that their system has some vulnerability. So blaming the government is easy”.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

In October, Opposition leaders across parties — from Congress’s Shashi Tharoor to AAP’s Raghav Chadha to TMC’s Mahua Moitra — received a “threat notification” from Apple warning of a “potential state-sponsored spyware attack” on their iPhones. They hit out at the Centre, and suggested that it was behind the spyware attack attempt.

Apple later issued a statement saying it “does not attribute the threat notifications to any specific state-sponsored attacker”. IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw at the time said that much of the information provided by Apple on the issue was “vague and non-specific in nature”, and urged the iPhone maker to join the probe with more accurate information about the alleged spyware attack.

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It is learnt that since Apple started sending out these alerts in late 2021, individuals in 150 countries have received such threat notifications. This paper has also learnt that according to Apple India’s internal records, at least 20 Indians with iPhones received the threat notification from the company last month.

The Indian Express had previously reported that earlier this month, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) sent a detailed questionnaire to the company asking about current vulnerabilities in Apple’s operating system and how long the company will take to issue a security patch to fix the holes. Another key question the agency is investigating, as is Apple, is whether there was a breach, or if it was an attempted hack.

The agency has also asked the company to explain what it means by a “state-sponsored attack” and when it concludes that an attack was initiated by a state-backed entity.

At the time, Apple is understood to have preliminarily told the government that iPhones can have loopholes especially when military-grade hacking attempts are made, and that the company is not equipped to remotely analyse the hack on a device level since it would require a great degree of access which could affect a user’s privacy further.


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