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What this "state-sponsored attackers" alert from Apple means and how to stay safe from cyberattacks


Apple’s ‘state-sponsored attackers’ alert: What it means and how to avoid getting hacked

Cybersecurity experts believe that the state-sponsored attacker alert sent to some popular politicians should be investigated and users should be made aware of the current status of the threat

VIDEO: Opposition Leaders Claim 'State-Sponsored Attackers Targeting Their Phones' Amid Apple Hacking Row
India Today

SUMMARY

  • Many opposition party leaders received an ominous message from Apple early this week
  • Apple responded about the latest alerts by re-iterating the details mentioned on its support page
  • Experts believe Apple should be clear about the current status of the threat

Apple recently sent out notifications to many prominent politicians in India warning them of ‘state-sponsored attackers’ targeting their iPhone. Many opposition party leaders including TMC’s Mahua Moitra, Shiv Sena UBT’s Priyanka Chaturvedi, Congress's Shashi Tharoor, AAP's Raghav Chadha said they received the same Threat notification from Apple. 

  Apple responded to the latest claims by re-iterating the details mentioned on its support page. The company claimed that 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. 

  They also revealed a possible loophole in the alert system claiming that some Apple threat notifications may be false alarms, or that some attacks are not detected. They further added, “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.” 

 Expert Opinion

  Cyber expert, Jiten Jain, during a panel discussion with Business Today’s Executive Director Rahul Kanwal,  explained how Apple should deal with the information about the cyberattacks. He said, “Apple as an OS does not give anyone, including antivirus or anti-malware companies, access to system files. It is very difficult to detect a malware on an Apple iPhone. You could detect it on an Android. So, the detection on an Apple is also very difficult. Whatever limited thing you could do is block those IP addresses or block those indicators of compromise. Leaving that responsibility to victims or the prospective victims is not a fair job.” 

  He emphasised that Apple has to inform all the users that whatever indicators of compromise they detected have been blocked or are in the process of being blocked on those platforms. He added, “This is the job they are shying away from.” 

  Mishi Choudhary, Technology Lawyer and Online Civil Rights Activist said, “Multiple folks have claimed that Apple issued an official statement on this issue. We have not seen anything that could be independently verified. All we saw was the information available on Apple Support page updated in August 2023 being twisted and attributed to Apple as some official clarification.” 

  Choudhary highlighted a report claiming that Apple has sent the threat notification in 150 countries but that doesn’t mean the recent alert is active in 150 countries. She further claimed that independent labs like Citizen Lab should look into this matter immediately and do a forensic analysis. 

 How to avoid getting hacked

  The barrage of notifications has led to concerns about data security and safety among users. In order to mitigate such risks, smartphone users, both Android and iOS, can use following tips for some additional safety:  

  • Use a VPN or a mobile security app to encrypt your data and protect your online activities. A VPN can also help you avoid phishing and tracking apps by hiding your IP address and location. Some of the best VPNs and mobile security apps are Norton, ExpressVPN and more.
  • Switch off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location when not in use. These services can expose your device to malicious attacks, even from far away. Hackers can use them to access your data, activate your mic or camera, or send you unwanted files.
  • Be vigilant while visiting websites and downloading anything from the internet. Some websites may contain malware or spyware that can infect your phone. Some downloads may also be harmful or fake. Always check the source and the reviews before downloading anything.
  • Keep your phone with you and use a passcode lock and complex passwords. Do not use easily guessable PINs, like birthdays, graduation dates, or basic defaults like “0000” or “1234.” Use an extended passcode if available, like those with 6 characters. Also, use different passwords for different accounts and change them regularly.
  • Avoid saving banking details on your phone or protect them with a password-protected security app. If your phone is lost or stolen, hackers may be able to access your financial information and make transactions without your consent. You can also set up remote wiping out data settings to erase your data in case of theft.
  • Keep up with software updates. Hackers often exploit software vulnerabilities to intrude into your data. So, always use the most updated software version to mitigate the risks. Software updates can also fix bugs and improve performance.
  • Do not root your phone. Rooting is the process of gaining full control over your phone’s operating system and features. While it may seem tempting to customise your phone, rooting can also make it more vulnerable to hacking. Rooting can also void your warranty and cause compatibility issues.
  • Apple also has a mode called ‘Lockdown’ which essentially restricts bad players from exploiting any safety loophole but it also restricts many features and services for the user.

Also read: Apple iPhone 17 development process to begin in India by late 2024: Ming-Chi Kuo

Also read: Investigating complaints over iPhone hacking notification, notice sent to Apple: Vaishnaw

Published on: Nov 02, 2023, 5:03 PM IST

Posted by: Danny Cyril Dcruze, Nov 02, 2023, 4:49 PM IST

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