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Apple warns users of Pegasus-like ‘mercenary spyware’ attack, India among targeted countries

Apple is reportedly gearing up to notify users in India and 91 other countries about a potential exposure to a sophisticated “mercenary spyware” attack. To that effect, Apple will issue a high-priority threat notification, warning users to stay safe.

The notification is likely to outline the uncommon and highly advanced nature of mercenary spyware attacks, as demonstrated by tools like Pegasus from Israel’s NSO Group, according to a report by The Economic Times.

ET’s claim to have seen a copy of the threat notification that Apple will issue to its users underscores the seriousness of the situation, stressing that the kind of mercenary spyware attacks they are talking about are far rarer and much more sophisticated than regular consumer malware.

In the notification, Apple also says that users whom the attack might target may be selected based on who they are and what they do. The notification will also point out that attacked users are usually singled out using their specific Apple ID, suggesting that the attack is tailored to the individual’s identity or activities.

The company urges users to take the warning seriously despite the inherent difficulty in definitively identifying such attacks.

Apple has also updated its support page with steps for users to protect themselves if they believe they may be targeted by a mercenary spyware attack.

This marks the second wave of threat notifications sent out by Apple globally. In October 2023, users in multiple countries, including India, received similar warnings of state-sponsored attacks on their devices, although Apple refrained from attributing these attacks to specific state actors.

Apple explains that state-sponsored attackers invest significant resources to meticulously target a select few individuals and their devices, making these attacks exceedingly challenging to detect and thwart.

Since 2021, Apple has sent these threat notifications to users across at least 150 countries, refraining from divulging further details about the attackers to prevent them from adapting and evading detection in the future.

Before 2021, Apple and Google warned users worldwide, including those in India, regarding potential remote compromises due to Pegasus, an Israeli company’s spyware.

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