The government has downplayed claims of "surveillance" made by opposition MPs who shared messages from Apple warning of "state-sponsored" attackers attempting to hack their phones.
IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw referenced Apple's statement, which indicated that notifications were issued in 150 nations based on often imperfect and incomplete data, and that some may be false alarms.
Vaishnaw also stated that the government takes its role of protecting the privacy and security of all citizens seriously, and a detailed investigation has been ordered. He mentioned, "We will investigate to get to the bottom of these notifications... we have also asked Apple to join the investigation with real, accurate information on the alleged state-sponsored attacks."
The IT Minister expressed that the alerts seem non-specific and highlighted Apple's claims that IDs are securely encrypted on devices, making it extremely difficult to access them without the user's explicit permission.
He then referred to the opposition MPs, including Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, as "compulsive critics" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing them of engaging in destructive politics and attempting to distract from the progress under PM Modi's leadership.
According to NDTV, Vaishnaw mentioned the past Pegasus spyware scandal, stating that an investigation supervised by the judiciary yielded no results and dismissing the claims as falsehoods.
Sources have indicated that the government plans to write to Apple regarding the use of the term "state-sponsored" attackers. Additionally, the junior IT Minister, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has posed questions to the company.
Meanwhile, multiple opposition MPs, including Congress leaders Pawan Khera and Shashi Tharoor, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, and the Aam Aadmi Party's Raghav Chadha, shared screenshots of messages/emails they received today.
Apple has clarified that it does not attribute notifications to any specific state-sponsored attacker and emphasised the challenges in detecting such attacks.
"It’s possible that some Apple threat notifications may be false alarms, or that some attacks are not detected," it 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," the company said.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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