Apple gets backlash from India after uncovering hacks on journalists

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in iPhone

India is targeting Apple with investigations and governmental pressure after the company revealed the country's use of Pegasus spyware against journalists and opposition parties.

India mad about Apple disclosure
India mad about Apple disclosure



In October, Apple alerted independent journalists and opposition politicians in India of possible hacking by government hackers. That led to a swift reaction from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government officials, who targeted Apple rather than addressing the hacking concerns.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) publicly scrutinized Apple's threat detection algorithms and initiated a probe into Apple device security, report from Amnesty International.

Senior officials from Modi's administration privately urged Apple's India representatives to downplay the impact of these warnings. During a New Delhi meeting, they also sought alternative explanations from an Apple security expert.

Despite significant pressure from the Indian government, Apple maintained its stance on the warnings, illustrating the challenges tech giants face against assertive governments. Recipients of Apple's alerts, many critical of Modi or his ally Gautam Adani, included notable journalists and politicians.

"Our latest findings show that increasingly, journalists in India face the threat of unlawful surveillance simply for doing their jobs, alongside other tools of repression including imprisonment under draconian laws, smear campaigns, harassment, and intimidation," said Donncha O Cearbhaill, Head of Amnesty International's Security Lab. "Despite repeated revelations, there has been a shameful lack of accountability about the use of Pegasus spyware in India, which only intensifies the sense of impunity over these human rights violations."

Cases like those of Anand Mangnale and Ravi Nair, whose phones were allegedly compromised by Pegasus spyware following their investigations into Adani, are part of this trend.

The Modi government has neither confirmed nor denied spyware use and has not cooperated with a Supreme Court-appointed committee investigating these issues. Evidence of targeted surveillance against journalists and opposition figures in India is growing.

Responses from BJP Officials



Post Apple's alerts, BJP officials worked to manage the situation. Senior government figures pressured Apple India to retract the warnings or acknowledge errors, leading to Apple India's emails that conceded possible detection inaccuracies.

However, civil society and digital rights groups met this move with skepticism and concern. BJP officials disseminated memos and used social media influencers to question the legitimacy of Apple's alerts, suggesting potential algorithm errors or pranks.

The government started an inquiry into Apple's threat notifications, but Apple upheld its findings in discussions with Indian officials. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology confirmed Apple's full cooperation in the investigation.

The clash between Apple and the Modi administration highlights Silicon Valley's broader challenges in India. Apple, viewing India as a key market, has cautiously avoided upsetting the Indian government, which seeks to attract major manufacturers like Apple for economic growth.

Despite reduced tensions between Apple and the Indian government, journalists who received hacking alerts continue to confront issues. The ongoing investigation by India's cybersecurity office doesn't have a clear deadline, and there is speculation about the origins of the hacking, with some authorities hinting at possible Chinese involvement.



Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    Never expected this but here in 2023 I’m rooting for the giant multi-national corporation over the government. Go, Apple and down with Pegasus and oppressive government.
    damn_its_hotauxiolordjohnwhorfinrob53bloggerblogAniMillchasmBart Yfred1blastdoor
  • Reply 2 of 31
    Good for Apple and I hope they stand their ground no matter the consequences! Modi and his officials are criminals who have been committing massacres and genocides against minorities in India.
    damn_its_hotauxiorob53ronnchasm9secondkox2ForumPostfred1pulseimagesOfer
  • Reply 3 of 31
    Any pots calling kettle black lately?  Seems as plausible as a ‘stove fire’ divorce/dissolution of  marriage. No shame with new wife waiting in the wings.

    Seems quite unlikely that Apple would report a hack that was initiated by themselves!

    Maybe Modi is really looking for a window to be installed in his stomach to see where he is going?!
    lordjohnwhorfinauxiowatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 31
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,740member
    Never expected this but here in 2023 I’m rooting for the giant multi-national corporation over the government. Go, Apple and down with Pegasus and oppressive government.
    Agreed. No large organization (government or corporation) should get "carte blanche" based on ideology. It's all about the leadership and what direction they're taking things. Modi's leadership is one of an unfortunate string of populist strong-arm dictators who have been elected recently. But as I always say, at least in a democratic society (which Modi is working hard to change), people have a say in things. And India has a history of standing up to repressive governments (not coincidentally, Modi's government has targeted Gandhi's legacy). Good for Apple for being on the side of those who hold government to account (investigative journalism), often at risk to their own freedom.
    chasmBart YOferwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 31
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 2,007member
    Now Apple needs to stand up to China. 
    gatorguy22july2013pulseimagesOfer9secondkox2
  • Reply 6 of 31
    y2any2an Posts: 196member
    It’s telling that the government took “state sponsored” attackers to mean Indian state. Whoops. 
    chasmOferwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 31
    ronnronn Posts: 669member
    "assertive government" should be changed to bigoted totalitarian psychos.
    watto_cobraAulani
  • Reply 8 of 31
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,371member
    This has been a big story in Canada as well, with the government there openly saying India targeted a Sikh separatist living in Canada for (a successful) assassination.

    The Modi government is hopelessly corrupt and deserves to be overthrown. Hopefully this revelation, and an international tribunal looking into the separatist targeting in the US and Canada will be the straw that broke this camel’s back.
    nubusronn9secondkox2ForumPostOferwatto_cobraAulani
  • Reply 9 of 31
    It is odd that Apple has a way to detect that a phone has been hacked but doesn’t have a way to stop it. Unless they were running an old version of iOS that hasn’t been patched which would be very careless on the part of the journalists and politicians targeted by Modi’s government. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 31
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,886administrator
    Any pots calling kettle black lately?  Seems as plausible as a ‘stove fire’ divorce/dissolution of  marriage. No shame with new wife waiting in the wings.

    Seems quite unlikely that Apple would report a hack that was initiated by themselves!

    Maybe Modi is really looking for a window to be installed in his stomach to see where he is going?!
    Pegasus has nothing to do with Apple. I'm not sure what you're talking about?
    pulseimagesronnwatto_cobra9secondkox2bloggerblog
  • Reply 11 of 31
    Soon to be: India will pass a law making it a crime to report on such hacks.  Apple will, of course, comply with all local laws and regulations.
    watto_cobra9secondkox2bloggerblog
  • Reply 12 of 31
    XedXed Posts: 2,668member
    Seems quite unlikely that Apple would report a hack that was initiated by themselves!
    How exactly does Apple operate and control Pegasus? This isn't remotely the same as agreeing to a [summons] subpoena (or whatever India uses to get into legally on Indian nationals).
    edited December 2023 ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 31
    Screw India, screw modi.

    Now tell Xi where to get off.
    watto_cobra9secondkox2
  • Reply 14 of 31
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,367member
    Soon to be: India will pass a law making it a crime to report on such hacks.  Apple will, of course, comply with all local laws and regulations.
    Exactly. Apple is doing the right thing here because they can. As bad as the Indian government is (and it’s very bad), India is still more free and democratic than China. 

    Apple really needs to figure out how to manufacture products in more democratic countries. 
    pulseimages22july2013Oferwatto_cobraAulani
  • Reply 15 of 31
    blastdoor said:
    Soon to be: India will pass a law making it a crime to report on such hacks.  Apple will, of course, comply with all local laws and regulations.
    Exactly. Apple is doing the right thing here because they can. As bad as the Indian government is (and it’s very bad), India is still more free and democratic than China. 

    Apple really needs to figure out how to manufacture products in more democratic countries. 
    I agree, but dictatorships provide cheaper labour, which is what Apple (i.e., its stockholders) really wants. And, as you imply, India is categorized as a "Flawed Democracy" anyway. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Economist_Democracy_Index I'm trying to come up with countries that are both large and very free/democratic. It's a short list. I would suggest that Apple consider doing its manufacturing in Japan or Germany.
    auxioOferwatto_cobrachelinAulanibeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 16 of 31
    Corrupt and bent country who has some decent people but has a very poor record of honesty. Only thing they care of money wherever it comes from. Do they stop the scammers who rape honest and decent people NO they are scum of the universe. Leave this country ASAP like all the quality ones do. 
    watto_cobra9secondkox2
  • Reply 17 of 31
    chadbag said:
    Now Apple needs to stand up to China. 
    Needs to yes. But sadly, they won’t. 


  • Reply 18 of 31
    davidwdavidw Posts: 2,074member
    blastdoor said:
    Soon to be: India will pass a law making it a crime to report on such hacks.  Apple will, of course, comply with all local laws and regulations.
    Exactly. Apple is doing the right thing here because they can. As bad as the Indian government is (and it’s very bad), India is still more free and democratic than China. 

    Apple really needs to figure out how to manufacture products in more democratic countries. 

    About the only product Apple manufacture is the Mac Pro. Which they manufacture in TX. (But assembled with parts from all over the World.) Nearly all of their other products are manufactured by contractors. With Foxcomm being their biggest contractor. Therefore, Apple choice of which country they want to have manufacture their products is limited to where their contractors have plants to assemble Apple products. Apple is not the one building the plants to manufacture their products. Now, Apple have financially help their contractors with the initial cost of building plants (to manufacture Apple products) outside of China. But Apple main goal is to reduce their over reliance on China (as where most of their products are manufactured), not to find cheaper labor or more democratic governments. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 31
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,340member
    davidw said:
    blastdoor said:
    Soon to be: India will pass a law making it a crime to report on such hacks.  Apple will, of course, comply with all local laws and regulations.
    Exactly. Apple is doing the right thing here because they can. As bad as the Indian government is (and it’s very bad), India is still more free and democratic than China. 

    Apple really needs to figure out how to manufacture products in more democratic countries. 

    About the only product Apple manufacture is the Mac Pro. Which they manufacture in TX. 
    Something about the manufacturing changed for the current Mac Pro, which is now marked "Product of Thailand" for the 2023 models. In small print it does say "Final Assembly in the USA". (It used to be worded "Assembled in the USA")
    Could just be a technicality, or something more.
    edited December 2023 nubus
  • Reply 20 of 31
    nubusnubus Posts: 443member
    gatorguy said:
    Something about the manufacturing changed for the current Mac Pro, which is now marked "Product of Thailand" for the 2023 models. In small print it does say "Final Assembly in the USA". (It used to be worded "Assembled in the USA")
    Could just be a technicality, or something more.
    Moving assembly close to customer allow Apple to transport cases by ship (bulk, weight, reduced carbon footprint) and motherboards by air (customizable, high value, low weight = low carbon footprint). Combined Apple can offer a lot of variants just in time with a reduced eco impact. Apple is doing the same for iMac (it is in their supplier report). If you buy an iMac in Europe the final assembly will happen in Cork, Ireland. This is really clever and something I haven't seen reported.
    ronn
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