Apple Warns Users in India and 91 Other Nations of Possible ‘Mercenary Spyware’ Attacks

JNS: Apple, on Thursday, issued a warning to users in India and around other 91 countries regarding potential attacks by ‘mercenary spyware’ targeting iPhones.

The tech giant, Apple, has alerted users in India and 91 other countries that their iPhones may have been targeted by ‘mercenary spyware’.

Despite not attributing the attacks to any specific entity, the company sent out threat notification emails around 12.30 am IST on Thursday (April 11) to affected users in India.

The number of individuals who received these emails is unknown. The emails referenced the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, stating that similar tools are being used globally to target individuals continuously, as reported by The Indian Express.

The subject line of the threat notification read, “ALERT: Apple detected a targeted mercenary spyware attack against your iPhone,” according to a copy seen by the Indian newspaper.

The notification email further stated, “Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack that is trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID -xxx-. This attack is likely targeting you specifically because of who you are or what you do. Although it’s never possible to achieve absolute certainty when detecting such attacks, Apple has high confidence in this warning — please take it seriously.”

Apple described mercenary spyware attacks, such as those involving the NSO Group’s Pegasus, as exceptionally rare and significantly more sophisticated than standard cybercriminal activities or consumer malware. The company emphasized that these attacks are costly and are targeted at a very small number of people, but they are ongoing and global.

Apple’s latest update, posted on its website on Wednesday, stated that the threat notifications were intended for users “who might have been individually targeted by mercenary spyware attacks,” as reported by various media outlets.

Pegasus, backed by Israel, is one example of mercenary spyware mentioned by Apple in the attack. It has been regularly used by state actors for surveillance and cybercrime against activists and opposition politicians.

In 2021, the Pegasus Project exposed the Indian government’s use of this spyware against opposition leaders, journalists, members of the judiciary, the Electoral Commission, and activists.

Meanwhile, Apple has outlined measures to address the issue on its support page.

“Lockdown Mode is an extreme, optional protection for iPhone, iPad, and Mac (running iOS 16, iPadOS 16.1, or macOS 13, or later) that should be used only if you believe you may be targeted by a highly sophisticated cyberattack, such as by a private company developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware,” the company stated in its support page titled ‘Harden your devices against mercenary spyware with Lockdown Mode’.

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