‘Spyware attack on iPhones erodes trust in mobile phones’

The recent news of a large-scale mercenary spyware attack targeting iPhone users in India and 91 other countries sent shockwaves among smartphone users globally as it exposed their privacy and data to hackers.

“The news raises serious concerns about user privacy and data security. This large-scale mercenary spyware attack is particularly concerning because it bypasses typical security measures to target specific devices,” Harish Kumar GS, Head of Sales (India and SAARC) of Check Point Software Technologies, has said.

The US-based phone-maker sent a fresh round of threat notifications to scores of its users in India, cautioning them about a likely mercenary spyware attack by hackers. Top politicians and journalists received the emails from Apple on Thursday.Â

Kumar asked the users to report any suspicious activity in their phones and change their Apple ID and passwords.

“This indicates that attackers are focusing on high-profile individuals like journalists, activists, or business leaders. If successful, the spyware can steal a vast amount of sensitive data, putting users at risk of blackmail, surveillance, and disruption of their personal or professional lives,” he said.

According to him, the spyware attack served as a stark reminder of the evolving cybersecurity landscape.

“By staying vigilant, implementing strong security practices, and remaining informed, iPhone users can significantly reduce their risk of becoming victims. Remember, user awareness and proactive measures are crucial to protecting your privacy and data in the digital age,” he said.

This targeted attack also erodes trust in mobile security, especially for iPhones which have traditionally been seen as highly secure devices.

Kiran Chandra, Founder of the Free Software Movement of India (FSMI), suspects that it might be linked to elections in different countries. “It is a season of elections across the globe. The attack may be related to the elections,” he said.

He said one needed a huge network to launch such large-scale attacks.

How to stay safe

Harish Kumar asked the users to ensure their phones were running on the latest iOS version. “Apple releases frequent security updates to patch vulnerabilities exploited by attackers. One needs to update the software,” he said.

Phishing emails and messages are often used to deliver spyware. “Be cautious of unsolicited messages, even if they appear to come from a known contact. Never click on suspicious links or download attachments from untrusted sources,” he said.

He recommended the users to go for Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for all their online accounts, including the Apple ID to get an extra layer of security.

“When installing new apps, one should carefully review the permissions they ask for. You must give access to features genuinely needed for the app’s functionality,” he said.

Besides backing up the data regularly, one should have a strong password and avoid accessing the internet using public Wi-Fi networks.

Kiran Chandra, however, felt that one could do little if one is attacked by powerful such as Pegasus spyware.Â

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