Govt orders probe after Opp MPs’ claims of receiving hacking attempt warnings from Apple

New Delhi: The government has ordered an investigation after Opposition MPs claimed that they received warnings of attempts being made by state-sponsored attackers to steal information from their iPhones.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the government takes its role of protecting the privacy and security of all citizens very seriously and “will investigate to get to the bottom of these notifications”.

“In light of such information and widespread speculation, we have also asked Apple to join the investigation with real, accurate information on the alleged state-sponsored attacks,” the minister said in his post.

The probe will be conducted by Cert-In, he said.

In a briefing in Bhopal, Vaishnaw took on the Opposition, saying compulsive critics were indulging in “distraction politics” as they could not tolerate the country’s progress under the Prime Minister’s leadership.

The minister pointed out that Apple had issued such an advisory in 150 countries.

In his post, Vaishnaw 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, he said, safeguards the user’s Apple ID and ensures that it remains private and protected.

“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 about ‘state-sponsored attacks’ on their devices. However, much of the information by Apple on this issue seems vague and non-specific in nature,” the minister noted.

Vaishnaw said that according to Apple, these notifications may be based on information which is ‘incomplete or imperfect’.

The minister further said that Apple’s statement has indicated “that some Apple threat notifications may be false alarms or some attacks are not detected”.

Several Opposition leaders on Tuesday claimed they had received an alert from Apple warning them of “state-sponsored attackers trying to remotely compromise” their iPhones and posted purported screenshots of the message on their X handles.

Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, Trinamool Congress’ Mahua Moitra, Aam Aadmi Party’s Raghav Chadha, Congress’ Shashi Tharoor and his party’s media and publicity department head Pawan Khera shared the message from Apple on X. CPI(M)general secretary Sitaram Yechury also received a similar message, sources in the party said.

iPhone maker Apple Inc has said it does not attribute threat notifications, such as the ones received by some MPs belonging to Opposition parties, to any specific state-sponsored attackers and that it cannot provide information on what causes such warnings.

After some of the most vocal critics of the government said they received warnings that attempts have been made by state-sponsored attackers to steal information from their iPhones, Apple in a statement stated it is possible that some threat notifications may be false alarms and some attacks may not be detected.

Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar in a post on X said that after today’s “threat notifications” being received by many people, including MPs and those in geopolitics, Apple should clarify whether its devices are secure and why these “threat notifications” are sent to people in over 150 countries.

“…because Apple has repeatedly claimed their products are designed for privacy. Our Government is committed and duty-bound to protect the privacy of our citizens, and we take this responsibility very seriously,” Chandrasekhar said.

He asserted that the government will investigate these threat notifications and also Apple’s claims of being secure and privacy-compliant devices.