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Parliamentary panel to discuss Apple warning issue

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT) has said that it might summon Apple officials during an upcoming meeting to address recent alerts on “state-sponsored attacks” sent to Opposition leaders and other public figures in the country on their iPhones. The committee’s secretariat has expressed ‘deep concern’ and is treating the matter with the ‘utmost seriousness.’

“The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT) is contemplating the summoning of Apple representatives during an upcoming meeting to address the recent ‘state-sponsored attacks’ on several public figures in India. The committee’s secretariat has expressed ‘deep concern’ and is treating the matter with the ‘utmost seriousness’,” an official of the Committee secretariat said.

On Tuesday, TMC MP Mahua Moitra and other Opposition leaders, including Congress’s Shashi Tharoor, AAP MP Raghav Chadha, said that they had received a “threat notification” from Apple, warning of a “potential state-sponsored spyware attack” on their iPhones. They hit out at the Centre and suggested that it was behind the spyware attack attempt.

As per screenshots shared by parliamentarians, notifications from Apple stated, “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.”

Congress’s Pawan Khera and Supriya Shrinate, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi, and AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi also said they received similar notifications.

Others who claimed to have received similar alerts included think-tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) president Samir Saran, an OSD of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and The Wire’s founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan.

The government, however, denied the charges and said a detailed investigation would be carried out into the matter.

On Tuesday, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, minister of state for electronics and technology, claimed that even commerce minister Piyush Goyal had received a hack alert from Apple.

Later, Union minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the central government was concerned about the ‘state-sponsored attack’ message and that it investigate the case thoroughly. “The government is concerned about this issue and it will go to the bottom of it,” he said.

Vaishnaw, however, said that Apple has issued this advisory in 150 countries but the probe has been ordered.

“We are concerned by the statements we have seen in media from some MPs as well as others about a notification received by them from Apple. The notification received by them as per media reports mentions ‘state-sponsored attacks’ on their devices,” the minister said.

He added much of the information by Apple on this issue seemed vague and non-specific in nature. “Apple states these notifications may be based on information which is ‘incomplete or imperfect’. It also states that some Apple threat notifications may be false alarms or some attacks are not detected.”

The minister 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.”

On Tuesday, Apple, on its part, issued a statement and said: “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,” the tech company said on Thursday.

“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,” the iPhone maker said. BusinessToday

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