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Apple warns users in 91 countries, including India, of Pegasus-like ‘mercenary spyware’ attacks

First Published: 11th April, 2024 16:23 IST

In August 2022, the Supreme Court-appointed committee concluded that the spyware was not found in the 29 mobile phones examined by it, but malware was found in five mobile phones.

 iPhone maker Apple has issued a series of fresh notifications to users in 91 other countries, including India, cautioning them of ‘mercenary spyware‘ including Pegasus malware that has stirred up significant controversy in recent times.

These new alerts, also received by users in India, are part of cautionary measures warning owners about potential risks to their privacy and data security.

In October 2023, Apple had sent a similar notification to political leaders across various parties in the country, including Congress’s Shashi Tharoor, Aam Aadmi Party’s Raghav Chadha, and Trinamool Congress’ Mahua Moitra. The alert warned of a “potential state-sponsored spyware attack” targeting their iPhones.

In 2021, the Supreme Court had formed a committee of technical experts to look into allegations of unauthorised surveillance using the Pegasus software developed by Israeli firm NSO Group.

In August 2022, the Supreme Court-appointed committee concluded that the spyware was not found in the 29 mobile phones examined by it, but malware was found in five mobile phones.

Apple noted that according to public reporting and research by civil society organisations, technology firms and journalists, individually targeted attacks of such exceptional cost and complexity have historically been associated with state actors, including private companies developing mercenary spyware on their behalf, such as Pegasus from the NSO Group.

It said, though deployed against a very small number of individuals – often journalists, activists, politicians and diplomats – mercenary spyware attacks are ongoing and global.

Since 2021, Apple said that it has sent out threat notifications multiple times a year as it has detected these attacks, and to date the company has notified users in over 150 countries in total.

“The extreme cost, sophistication and worldwide nature of mercenary spyware attacks makes them some of the most advanced digital threats in existence today. As a result, Apple does not attribute the attacks or resulting threat notifications to any specific attackers or geographical regions,” it said.

The phone maker in its notification provides additional steps that users can take to help protect their devices, including enabling Lockdown Mode.

Apple advised its users to update their devices with the latest security patches and exercise caution while interacting with suspicious links or messages. (ANI)



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