Ever wondered whether the government is out to get you? Well, if you’re an iPhone user, you’ll now be able to stay abreast of that terrifying information.
Apple has announced plans to notify users when they are suspected of having been hacked by “state-sponsored” threat actors. The move appears to have been at least partially inspired by recent hacking controversies involving Israeli spyware maker NSO Group, which sells surveillance gear to governments around the world and has repeatedly been tied to surreptitious spying incidents involving iPhone users.
On Tuesday, Apple announced that it had filed a lawsuit against NSO and its parent company, in an effort to “hold it accountable for the surveillance and targeting of Apple users.” NSO is also currently facing a different but similar lawsuit filed by Facebook/Meta for its role in hacking WhatsApp users.
The silver lining of the malware dealer’s creepy shit is Apple’s new notification policy, which is already in action. Apple’s announcement states that, from now on, affected users will be sent notifications via email and iMessage and will also get a “threat notification” sent to their Apple ID webpage that looks something like this:
“Apple threat notifications are designed to inform and assist users who may have been targeted by state-sponsored attackers,” the company says.
Apple sent some of its first notifications to activists and researchers in Thailand on Tuesday, Reuters reports. One affected researcher shared screenshots of the notifications on Twitter, which shows a fairly generic message warning about “state-sponsored attackers.”
It’s somewhat unclear how much information Apple plans to share with affected parties. For example, if you’ve been targeted, are you going to get a message telling you about a specific APT or threat group? Or will you just be left with the terrifying but vague knowledge that someone is out to get you? From the screenshots shared online, it would appear to be more the latter. And if that’s the case, the best response may be to chuck your iPhone in the sea. We reached out to Apple for clarification and will update this story if they respond.
Either way, it’s a pretty interesting development—though it likely doesn’t concern most users. In its announcement, Apple makes a point of highlighting the fact that the “vast majority of users will never be targeted” and that such attacks are typically reserved for journalists, researchers or other individuals engaged in high-risk political activities.