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Is your iPhone compromised by 'mercenary spyware attack'? What Apple said

Apple notes that these sophisticated attackers invest "exceptional resources" to selectively target a small group of people

iPhone, Apple, iPhone sales

The spyware attempts to gain remote control of the targeted device. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Nisha Anand New Delhi

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Disclaimer: This report has been updated

US technology giant Apple alerted a select group of users in India on Wednesday, warning them of a potential security threat resembling Pegasus-like ‘mercenary spyware attack’ on their devices.

 The spyware attempts to gain remote control of the targeted device.

“Mercenary spyware attacks, such as those using Pegasus from the NSO Group, are exceptionally rare,” Apple told the specific users, adding that they are typically more sophisticated than regular cybercriminal activity.

Pegasus is a spyware software developed by an Israeli company NSO Group. Apple cautioned the users in as many as 98 countries, including India, for which this is the second time that such a warning has been issued by the company.

What is a mercenary spyware attack?

According to a blog shared by Apple in April, the mercenary spyware attackers apply “exceptional resources” to target a very small number of specific individuals. These attacks cost millions of dollars and have a short life span, it said, noting that they are hard to detect.

Who is the target audience for such attacks?

According to Apple, since such cyberattacks usually target specific people and their devices, the vast majority of the population is never expected to be hit by such threats.

Notably, former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter, Iltija Mufti, alleged on Wednesday that her device had been hacked by Pegasus and blamed the Narendra Modi government for harassing political opponents.

Mufti also shared the screenshots of Apple’s notification to her in a post on X, which read, “Apple detected a mercenary spyware attack against your iPhone…”

The alleged notification further warned that Iltija might be specifically targeted because of “who she is or what she does.”

Rahul Gandhi also alleged Pegasus attack

In the past, many Opposition politicians, including Rahul Gandhi have also alleged an attempted attack by Pegasus on their devices.

In 2022, the Supreme Court disclosed that a panel appointed by it to probe the charges of snooping via Pegasus, did not find any evidence of the use of software. To be clear, the panel had said that the Centre did not assist it in the probe.

In its blog, Apple noted that journalists, activists, politicians and diplomats are often the key target of such attacks. The company has been sending these notifications to users across the globe since 2021, reaching over 150 countries so far.

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First Published: Jul 11 2024 | 10:02 AM IST

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