Apple issues two fresh Pegasus-like spyware alerts in India

Iltija Mufti, political adviser and daughter of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, reported receiving the alert, and so did Pushparaj Deshpande, founder of the Samruddha Bharat Foundation

Updated - July 10, 2024 10:15 pm IST

Published - July 10, 2024 09:05 pm IST - NEW DELHI

At least two people in India reported receiving a Pegasus-like alert from Apple, Inc. on their iPhones on July 10, 2024. File

At least two people in India reported receiving a Pegasus-like alert from Apple, Inc. on their iPhones on July 10, 2024. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

At least two people in India on July 10 reported receiving a Pegasus-like alert from Apple, Inc. on their iPhones. The alerts, sent out on Tuesday night, warn them that they have been targeted by a targeted “mercenary” attack. Apple previously called these attacks “state-backed,” but changed this in April. Such spyware allows attackers to sift through targets’ personal devices, allowing them to view messages, photos, and tap into microphone and camera feeds in real time. 

Iltija Mufti, political adviser and daughter of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, reported receiving the alert, and so did Pushparaj Deshpande, founder of the Samruddha Bharat Foundation, which says on its website it works to “forge progressive coalitions”. Ms. Mufti and Mr. Deshpande told The Hindu that their phones were updated, and that they would soon get their devices forensically examined. 

An Apple spokesperson in India did not have an immediate comment to offer on the alerts. While the alert did not say that the attack was state-based, it named the Pegasus spyware as an example. Pegasus, a suite of snooping tools developed by the Israeli NSO Group Technologies, is only sold to governments. The Union government never confirmed or denied purchasing and using the Pegasus hardware, and refused to participate in a Supreme Court-ordered investigation into the spyware’s use. 

Pervious documented instances

This is the first time in months that such spyware alerts have been issued. The last documented instance during which individuals received alerts was last October, when Apple devices belonging to The Wire news portal’s founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan and Anand Mangnale, South Asia Editor at the Organised Crime and Corruption Report Project, received such alerts. Subsequent forensic testing showed they were targeted with a vulnerability used by Pegasus clients. 

Editorial | Malware malice: On the Apple cyberattack alert

Both Ms. Mufti and Mr. Deshpande blamed the Union government and insisted that the spyware they had been warned about was Pegasus. “BJP shamelessly snoops on women only because we refuse to toe their line,” Ms. Mufti said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. Mr. Deshpande said: “Countless problems facing India which GoI should be redressing. Instead it’s more focused in deploying #Pegasus to scare & suppress.”

An international investigation in 2021 by the Forbidden Stories collective revealed the extent to which civil society organisations, opposition politicians and journalists were targeted around the world by Pegasus spyware. The Union government denied acting illegally but refused to confirm or deny expressly Pegasus deployment. 

Alleged targets revealed in 2021 include current Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Rahul Gandhi, former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, student activist Umar Khalid, Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, the entourage of the Dalai Lama, and the people charged in the Bhima Koregaon violence of 2018, including Stan Swamy, Shoma Sen and Rona Wilson. 

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.