'Work of Criminals': Congress on Suspected 'State-Sponsored' Hacking of iPhones

In response, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw brushed off the Opposition's claims of being targeted by spyware.

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"This is not just one person. This is the whole Opposition," said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi after Apple informed a swath of leaders from various political parties that their iPhones may have been targeted by "state-sponsored attackers."

"This is not done by somebody who is not scared, who is honest and who believes in themselves. This is the work of criminals, of thieves. Only thieves and criminals would want to do this,” Gandhi said at a press conference on Tuesday, 31 October.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, and AAP MP Raghav Chadha are just a few of the prominent Opposition leaders who claimed that they had received Apple's spyware threat alert.

While Apple refused to attribute the threat notifications to any specific state-sponsored attacker, the controversy has reignited fears of Pegasus-like spyware being used to snoop on critics of the PM Modi-led government.

"Look at the people who have received those alerts, whether it is Sitharam Yechury, Mahua Moitra, Raghav Chadha and so on. It tells you that the Government should have come out and spoken about it. There is a ministry that deals with such kind of issues. Why are they silent? Their silence is speaking loudly," Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Manoj Kumar Jha was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.


'Pegasus Inquiry Sort of Disappeared': Rahul Gandhi

"The last Pegasus inquiry where my name was also there… that sort of disappeared. So that tells you the situation in the country. Our job as Opposition is to make people understand what is going on and I am very happy that more and more people are understanding what is going on,” Congress' Rahul Gandhi said when asked if the party was contemplating legal action over the Apple hacking alert incident.

He further suggested that those who had been "raising the Adani issue" like AICC general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal, party leaders Pawan Khera and Supriya Shrinate received the hacking attack warning.

"We are not going to get cowed down. We are fighters. We will not step back. Jitni tapping karni hai kar lo…It does not matter to me… If you want my phone…I will give it to you," Gandhi said in Tuesday's press conference.

"No matter how much we attack Modi it doesn’t have an effect because the soul is somewhere else. And now we have understood this. We have understood that the soul is there in the parrot and now we are attacking the soul. That is why all this is going on,” he continued.

"That is why Apple is sending messages that your phone is being targeted by state-sponsored attackers," Gandhi added.


'Vague and Non-Specific': BJP Responds to Hacking Allegations

Meanwhile, Union Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw cast doubts on the iPhone maker's threat notification system. "Much of the information by Apple on this issue seems vague and non-specific in nature," he said

"Apple states these notifications maybe based on information which is ‘incomplete or imperfect’. It also states that some Apple threat notifications maybe false alarms or some attacks are not detected," Vaishnaw added.

"Such advisories have been sent to people in 150 countries. The people who cannot see the growth of the country are doing destructive politics," Vaishnaw was quoted as saying by ANI.

Union Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar also asked Apple for an explanation about why these threat alerts were sent to "people in over 150 countries."

However, the "150 countries" figure probably includes threat alerts sent by Apple since the notification system was first rolled out in November 2021.

"Since enabling the Threat Notifications feature, Apple has sent Threat Notifications to individuals whose accounts are in nearly 150 countries."
Apple's official statement

Interestingly, Chandrasekhar claimed that BJP leader and Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal had also received "one such message" from Apple, NDTV reported.

If true, Goyal being warned by Apple may indicate that the "State-sponsored attackers" weren't just going after Opposition leaders and government critics.

"Apple has to respond to the government's questions," Chandrasekhar added.

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Topics:  Rahul Gandhi   Apple   Congress  

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