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Apple warns of ‘mercenary spyware attack’ on users in India, 91 other countries

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Apple Inc has warned its users in India and ninety-one other countries that they were possible victims of a “mercenary spyware attack”, according to a threat notification email that was sent to targeted users.

The company, in a fresh alert, dropped the word “state-sponsored” it used in its previous alerts to refer to such malware attacks, reported Reuters.

The company had previously said on its website that its threat notifications were designed to inform and assist users who might have been targeted by “state-sponsored attackers.”

But Apple’s latest update posted on the website on Wednesday said the threat notifications were designed to help users “who might have been individually targeted by mercenary spyware attacks.”

The company discovered that attackers tried to “remotely compromise the iPhone”, Apple said in the notification email seen by Reuters.

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It also noted that such attacks have been historically associated with state actors, including private companies developing mercenary spyware on their behalf, such as Pegasus spyware from Israeli firm NSO Group.

Mercenary spyware attacks are rare and vastly more sophisticated than regular cybercriminal activity or malware, according to the notification email.

The iPhone-maker has sent threat notifications such as these multiple times a year since 2021, the notification email said, adding that it has notified users in more than 150 countries in total to date.

In October 2023, some Indian 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”.

The company had then said it did not attribute the threat notifications to “any specific state-sponsored attacker”.

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