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Apple Warns Opposition MPs of State-Sponsored Attacks on iPhones


At least seven Opposition Members of Parliament alerted by Apple about potential state-sponsored attacks targeting their iPhones, with warnings indicating the attackers’ likely motivations. The warning advises protective measures, including activating the ‘Lockdown Mode’ feature on their devices.


GS III: Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Characteristics of State-Sponsored Attackers According to Apple
  2. Apple’s Threat Notifications
  3. Apple’s Recommendations for Users When an Attack is Detected
  4. Government Response

Characteristics of State-Sponsored Attackers According to Apple:

  • Apple’s statement clarifies that it refrains from attributing its threat notifications to specific state-sponsored attackers.
  • State-sponsored attackers are known for their substantial financial backing and high level of sophistication.
  • Their attack methods continually evolve, making them challenging to detect.
  • Detecting such attacks relies on threat intelligence signals that can be imperfect and incomplete.
  • It’s possible that some of Apple’s threat notifications might be false alarms, or some attacks may go undetected.
  • Government-backed attackers specifically target individuals and their devices based on their identities and activities.
  • These state-sponsored attacks differ significantly from those carried out by typical cybercriminals who target a broader user base for financial gains.
  • State-sponsored attacks are often of short duration, designed to avoid detection, and take advantage of vulnerabilities that may not be publicly known.

Apple’s Threat Notifications:

  • Apple’s threat notifications serve as a means of alerting and assisting users who may have become targets of state-sponsored attackers.
  • The company has developed a system that identifies patterns of activity indicative of such attacks.
  • When the system detects an attack, it triggers a Threat Notification, which is sent through email and iMessage to the email addresses and phone numbers linked to the affected user’s Apple ID.
  • The notifications received by some politicians and others are likely a result of this system identifying suspicious patterns of activity.

Apple’s Recommendations for Users When an Attack is Detected:

  • Apple provides general security tips, including updating to the latest software versions, setting a passcode, enabling two-factor authentication, and using strong passwords for Apple IDs.
  • Users are advised to download apps exclusively from the App Store, use unique passwords for each online account, and avoid clicking on links or attachments from unknown sources.
  • Apple suggests the activation of Lockdown Mode.
Lockdown Mode:
  • Lockdown Mode is a feature introduced in Apple’s recent software updates designed to protect against rare and sophisticated cyberattacks.
  • When Lockdown Mode is enabled, the device enters a state of heightened security, which involves restricting or disabling many standard functions.
  • For instance, users won’t be able to send or receive attachments, links, or link previews in messages.
  • Apple emphasizes that anyone who receives a threat notification from the company should take it seriously and follow the recommended steps to secure their device and account.

Government Response:

  • The government has initiated an investigation into these alerts.
  • Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw downplays the alerts, referring to Apple’s claim that such alerts have been distributed to individuals in 150 countries.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023