IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Tuesday said that the government has ordered a probe after a few Opposition leaders disclosed that they had received a notification on their iPhones from Apple about possible state-sponsored attacks.
“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,” Vaishnaw said.
“Apple has also claimed that Apple IDs are securely encrypted on devices, making it extremely difficult to access or identify them without the user’s explicit permission. This encryption safeguards the user’s Apple ID and ensures that it remains private and protected,” he added.
He also said that the government has asked Apple to join the probe.
This morning, Opposition leaders including Mahua Moitra and Priyanka Chaturvedi said they received a notification on their iPhones from Apple that warned of possible state-sponsored attacks.
“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,” the message read.
Apple, however, has clarified that the notifications do not necessarily direct at certain specific state-sponsored attackers.
“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. It’s possible that some Apple threat notifications may be false alarms, or that some attacks are not detected. 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,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement.
The development has reignited the controversies around reported usage of Pegasus, a sophisticated spyware from Israeli firm NSO Group, by the Indian government against its critics. The same spyware has been used worldwide to snoop on journalists and other noted activists. The Pegasus controversy has also led to disruptions to proceedings of the Parliament in the past.
“The recent disclosures by MPs raises alarm & highlights the urgent need for surveillance reform. We urge the Indian Govt to reject the use of surveillance tech. There needs to be an impartial investigation to determine the source & extent of the potential attack,” said Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) in a tweet.