iphone 15 pro
According to the report, Apple sends notifications to targeted iPhone users if they detect "mercenary spyware attacks" attempting to remotely compromise their devices Image Credit: Apple

Bengaluru: 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.

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The company discovered that attackers tried to "remotely compromise the iPhone", Apple said in the notification email.

“Mercenary spyware attacks such as those using Pegasus from the NSO group, are exceptionally rare and vastly more sophisticated than regular cybercriminal activity or consumer malware," the notification mail sent by Apple stated.

The report states the spyware attempts to remotely compromise specific devices linked to Apple IDs. Users receive threat notifications explaining they're likely targeted due to their profession or identity. While complete certainty is impossible, Apple emphasises the high confidence in these warnings and urges users to take them seriously.

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 20223, 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".

Apple threat notification? Get help
If you receive an Apple threat notification, contact the Digital Security Helpline for expert assistance. This free, 24/7 service by Access Now offers targeted security advice. While Apple can't disclose specifics, the Helpline can guide you through the next steps.

How Apple send notifications

To protect users from mercenary spyware, Apple will notify them in two ways if suspicious activity is detected:

* A Threat Notification will be displayed at the top of the page after the user has signed in to appleid.apple.com.

* Apple will send an email and iMessage notification to the email addresses and phone numbers associated with the user’s Apple ID.

* These notifications will provide additional steps that notified users can take to help protect their devices, including enabling Lockdown Mode.

Guidance for users

All users should continue to protect themselves from general cybercriminals and consumer malware by following best practices for security:

* Update devices to the latest software, as that includes the latest security fixes

* Protect devices with a passcode

* Use two-factor authentication and a strong password for Apple ID

* Install apps from the App Store

* Use strong and unique passwords online

*  Don’t click on links or attachments from unknown senders