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WP: India government retaliated against Apple after government phone hacking claims – JURIST | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


The Washington Post (WP) reported Wednesday that following Apple’s October alert about alleged government hacking attempts on iPhones of independent Indian journalists and opposition politicians, Indian government officials swiftly retaliated against Apple.

It is reported that officials of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), the ruling party, hurried to contain the fallout after journalists and politicians shared Apple’s warnings. The government administration pressured Apple to retract warnings, leading to a heated discussion. Under government pressure, Apple India acknowledged potential mistakes in threat detection and sought to downplay warnings globally. However, during a November meeting, Apple defended its stance against Indian officials’ scrutiny.

India’s opposition leaders and journalists received Apple alerts, warning of potential state-sponsored iPhone attacks. The simultaneous warnings, titled “ALERT: State-sponsored attackers may be targeting your iPhone,” hinted at a specific India-related threat. Apple, not attributing the notifications to a particular attacker, highlighted the risk of compromising sensitive data and device functions. Globally enabled in 2021, these alerts address spyware threats across nearly 150 countries, including India.

In a string of tweets on October 31, Minister for Electronics and Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw refuted the claim of state-sponsored attacks and asked Apple to join the investigation. The Minister, in a tweet, had stated:

[I]nformation by Apple on this issue seems vague and non-specific in nature. Apple states these notifications maybe based on information which is ‘incomplete or imperfect’. It also states that some Apple threat notifications maybe false alarms or some attacks are not detected…The Government of Bharat takes its role of protecting the privacy and security of all citizens very seriously and will investigate to get to the bottom of these notifications.

This is not the first time that the Indian Government has been the subject of surveillance and data privacy breach allegations, especially concerning that its critics. In 2021, the Pegasus Project allegedly verified numerous instances of phones in India, including those belonging to politicians, journalists, and human rights defenders, being infected with spyware. Many more individuals, including prominent figures and their family members, were likely targeted, particularly around the 2019 general elections.

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