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Apple Removes "State-Sponsored" Label from Threat Notifications, Citing "Mercenary Spyware Attacks"

In a recent update to its threat notification policy, Apple Inc has dropped the term "state-sponsored" when referring to potential malware attacks. The tech giant sent out a notification email to users in India and 91 other countries, warning them of a "mercenary spyware attack." This change in language marks a departure from Apple's previous alerts, which explicitly mentioned "state-sponsored attackers."

According to the notification email seen by Reuters, Apple discovered attempts to remotely compromise iPhones. The company's website previously stated that threat notifications were aimed at informing and assisting users targeted by state-sponsored attackers. However, the updated language now focuses on helping individuals who may have been individually targeted by mercenary spyware attacks.

Apple acknowledged that historically, such attacks have been associated with state actors, including private companies developing spyware on their behalf. Notably, the email mentioned the Pegasus spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO Group.

The decision to remove the term "state-sponsored" from threat notifications comes after Apple faced pressure from the Indian government. Opposition politicians in India accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of attempting to hack into their mobile phones following Apple's previous warnings of "state-sponsored" attacks. The company engaged in extensive discussions with Indian officials before releasing the updated alerts.

Mercenary spyware attacks, as described in the notification email, are rare and significantly more sophisticated than regular cybercriminal activity or malware. Apple has been sending out threat notifications like these multiple times a year since 2021, reaching users in over 150 countries worldwide.

  • Apple drops the term "state-sponsored" from its threat notification policy, now focusing on "mercenary spyware attacks."

  • The change in language comes after pressure from the Indian government and concerns raised by opposition politicians.

  • Mercenary spyware attacks are rare and highly sophisticated.


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