Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of trying to hack into senior opposition politicians’ mobile phones, after they reported receiving warning messages from Apple.

Some of the lawmakers shared screenshots on social media of a notification quoting the iPhone manufacturer as saying: “Apple believes you are being targeted by state-sponsored attackers who are trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID”.“Hack us all you want,” Gandhi told a news conference in New Delhi, in reference to Modi. “But we (opposition) will not stop questioning you.” Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw expressed concern at the lawmakers’ statements and said the government had asked Apple to join its investigation into the matter.The company said it did not attribute the threat notifications to “any specific state-sponsored attacker”. State-sponsored attacks were evolving over time. Detecting them “relies on threat intelligence signals that are often imperfect and incomplete,” it said.“It’s possible that some Apple threat notifications may be false alarms, or that some attacks are not detected,” Jairam Ramesh, spokesperson for Gandhi’s Congress party, called Apple’s clarification a “long-winded non-denial” of a security breach.In 2021, India was rocked by reports that the government had used Israeli-made Pegasus spyware to snoop on scores of journalists, activists and politicians, including Gandhi. The government has declined to reply to questions whether India or any of its state agencies had purchased Pegasus spyware for surveillance.The Indian government has launched an investigation into mobile phone alerts reportedly sent by Apple that warn several of the country’s opposition politicians against “state-sponsored attackers”.The alerts on the phones of a dozen of India’s top politicians have triggered a row between the ruling Narendra Modi-led Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government and opposition parties ahead of elections.Ashwini Vaishnaw, India’s federal minister for communications and information technology, said the government will get to the bottom of the allegations as it takes such matters “seriously”.A major controversy erupted between the ruling BJP and opposition parties after several prominent politicians raised an alarm over automated messages that flashed on their iPhones. The politicians have accused the federal government of trying to hack into their devices and spying on them.Among the politicians who received the alert are opposition members who have been the ruling BJP’s most stringent critics. These include Mahua Moitra of the Trinamool Congress, lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, and the Congress party’s Shashi Tharoor, Pawan Khera, and Supriya Shrinate.


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2023-11-01

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