The government is looking into the concerns raised by certain Opposition MPs who say they got messages from Apple Inc. about potential hacking attempts on their iPhones.
After opposition MPs, some of them outspoken critics of the government, shared warning messages they received on X (formerly Twitter), and with Apple confirming their authenticity, Telecom and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw stated that the government is committed to safeguarding the privacy and security of all citizens. He emphasized the government’s dedication to investigating these notifications thoroughly.
Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, expressed the government’s desire for Apple to provide clarity regarding the security of its devices and the reason for sending ‘threat notifications’ to individuals in more than 150 countries. This inquiry arises in light of Apple’s consistent assertions about the privacy-oriented design of its products.
In a series of posts on X, Ashwini Vaishnaw raised concerns about the information provided by Apple regarding its notification of ‘state-sponsored attacks,’ describing it as appearing vague and lacking specific details.
Apple acknowledges that these notifications might rely on information that is ‘incomplete or imperfect.’ The company also clarifies that some of its threat notifications could be false alarms, and certain attacks may go undetected, as highlighted by Ashwini Vaishnaw.
Apple has asserted that Apple IDs are strongly encrypted on their devices, making it exceptionally challenging to access or identify them without the explicit consent of the user. This encryption serves to protect the user’s Apple ID, ensuring its privacy and security.
In response to this matter, Apple has been formally requested to participate in the investigation and provide accurate and comprehensive information regarding the alleged state-sponsored attacks.
The investigation will be highly technical in nature and will require expertise in the technical domain. Therefore, a technically qualified agency, such as Cert-In, known for its global collaborations with leading experts worldwide, will oversee the investigation. Cert-In will also collaborate with other law enforcement agencies as needed during the course of the inquiry, as the minister explained during a briefing in Bhopal.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar reiterated the government’s firm commitment and responsibility to safeguard the privacy of its citizens, emphasizing the seriousness with which this duty is taken.
He also affirmed that the government will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the threat notifications and Apple’s assertions regarding the security and privacy compliance of its devices. Furthermore, Apple is expected to provide clarification on the security of its devices and the reason for sending ‘threat notifications’ to individuals in more than 150 countries.
In response to these developments, various Opposition MPs, including Mahua Moitra of TMC and Shashi Tharoor of Congress, used X to share the warning messages they received on their iPhones concerning possible hacking attempts.
Apple, when approached for comments, clarified that it does not attribute threat notifications to any particular state-sponsored attackers and cannot pinpoint the exact reasons for these warnings.
The company stated, “Apple does not attribute the threat notifications to any specific state-sponsored attacker.” It further explained that state-sponsored attackers are highly resourceful and sophisticated, with their attack methods continually evolving.
Apple emphasized that the detection of such attacks depends on threat intelligence signals, which can sometimes be incomplete or imperfect. Therefore, there is a possibility that some threat notifications from Apple may be false alarms, or certain attacks may go undetected.
Apple refrained from specifying the exact triggers behind the threat notifications received by MPs, including Mahua Moitra of TMC, stating, “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.”
Sources with knowledge of the situation revealed that Apple had dispatched threat notifications to individuals with accounts in nearly 150 countries.
On Tuesday, numerous Opposition leaders made claims about receiving alerts from Apple, warning them of “state-sponsored attackers trying to remotely compromise” their iPhones. They also shared purported screenshots of these messages on their X profiles.
MPs from various political parties, including Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena (UBT), Mahua Moitra of Trinamul Congress, Raghav Chadha of Aam Aadmi Party, Shashi Tharoor of Congress, and Congress’ media and publicity department head Pawan Khera, all shared the Apple message on X. Additionally, sources within the party revealed that CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury also received a similar message.