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Apple warns Opposition MPs about ‘state-sponsored’ attacks on their iPhones; IT Minister responds



October 31, 2023 10:29 am | Updated 05:39 pm IST

Not specifically saying the Indian government was responsible, though it can’t be ruled out, an Apple spokesperson told The Hindu


A view of Apple iPhones at a store. In a clarification regarding the threat alerts, Apple said that the company does not attribute the threat notifications to any specific state-sponsored attacker. (representational image) | Photo Credit: Reuters

At least seven Opposition Members of Parliament said on October 31, 2023, that they received a warning from Apple that “State-sponsored attackers may be targeting” their iPhones.

Shiv Sena (Uddhav faction) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, Trinamool Congress’ Mahua Moitra, Congress’ Pawan Khera and Shashi Tharoor, CPI(M) Sitaram Yechury, AAP’s Raghav Chadha and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi are among those who shared the alert sent by Apple on X (formerly Twitter). Ms. Moitra alleged Akhilesh Yadav has also received such warning, but the Samajwadi Party chief has not yet confirmed the same.

The novelist and newspaper editor Sriram Karri also said he received a similar email on his iPhone being targeted by state-sponsored attackers. Samir Saran, president of the thinktank Observer Research Foundation also shared the alert received by him.

“ALERT: State-sponsored attackers may be targeting your iPhone,” the message received by MPs from “” said. “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,” the message read.

Not specifically saying the Indian government was responsible: Apple

In a clarification regarding these alerts, the company said: “Apple does not attribute the threat notifications to any specific state-sponsored attacker.”

“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,” it said in a statement, adding that Apple has sent Threat Notifications to individuals whose accounts are in nearly 150 countries.

An Apple spokesperson told The Hindu that they were not specifically saying the Indian government was responsible, though they did not rule this out, saying that they weren’t attributing these alerts “to any specific state-sponsored attacker.” It is yet unclear if Apple executives in India were aware that these alerts were going out in advance.

Apple did not respond to queries on whether the Indian government asked them about these alerts, or if they would provide more information on how they detected these hacking attempts if asked.

Investigation launched into the alerts: Ashwini Vaishnaw

Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw told reporters in Bhopal that the Government has launched an investigation into the alerts. Mr. Vaishnaw downplayed the alerts by citing Apple’s claim that these alerts have been sent to people in 150 countries. However, the company said that this claim is not limited to this last week, and is for the entire period since Apple first started issuing these alerts.

“I would like to clearly say that the Government is very concerned on this issue, and that we will get to the bottom of this,” Mr. Vaishnaw said. “This country has compulsive critics who wake up everyday to criticise the Government on any given issue. These people cannot stand seeing this country’s progress.”

The MPs have been vocal in their criticism against the Union government. Ms. Moitra has questioned the alleged nexus of Modi government with businessman Gautam Adani. Response from the Union Home Ministry is awaited.

“Received text & email from Apple warning me Govt trying to hack into my phone & email. @HMOIndia – get a life. Adani & PMO bullies – your fear makes me pity you. @priyankac19 – you, I , & 3 other INDIAns have got it so far,” Ms. Moitra alleged sharing the screenshot of the message.

“Dear Modi Sarkar, why are you doing this?,” posted Mr. Khera.

“Wonder who? Shame on you. Cc: @HMOIndia for your kind attention,” Ms. Chaturvedi said sharing the screenshot.

BJP MP accuses Mahua Moitra of ‘taking cash to ask questions’

Shashi Tharoor wrote: “Received from an Apple ID,, which I have verified. Authenticity confirmed. Glad to keep underemployed officials busy at the expenses of taxpayers like me! Nothing more important to do?”

Responding to the opposition leaders, BJP’s Amit Malviya said in a post on X, “Usual suspects raising a storm over ‘state-sponsored’ attack and pretending to be martyrs is all good… But this hullabaloo, in all probability, like in the past, will end up as damp squib! “Why not wait for Apple to clarify? Or is it too much to let go an opportunity to outrage?”

Rahul Gandhi links the issue with Opposition leaders’ fight against Adani group

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi raised the issue of alleged attempt at hacking of phones of Opposition leaders and linked it with their fight against the Adani group and alleged “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s soul lies with [Gautam] Adani”.

“Earlier, I used to think that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was most powerful, followed by Adani and Amit Shah. But now, it is Adani, followed by Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah,” he said.

“We are not going to be scared and will keep raising our voice,” Mr. Gandhi asserted. “If you want my phone, take it,” he said, adding: “The moment we touch Adani, CBI, ED, snooping starts.”

The Congress leader said “we are not going to be scared and will keep raising our voice”. “If you want my phone, take it,” Mr. Gandhi added.

What are apple threat notifications?

According to an Apple support document published on the company’s website on August 22, 2023, “Apple threat notifications are designed to inform and assist users who may have been targeted by state-sponsored attackers. These users are individually targeted because of who they are or what they do.”

“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,” the document adds.

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