Apple confirmed a focused attack on content related to the Uyghur Muslim community in a Friday statement, adding that it was narrow in scale.
Google research team Project Zero suggested Aug. 29 that an unknown group of hackers were “making a sustained effort to hack the users of iPhones in certain communities over a period of at least two years” by getting targets to visit select websites and then installing “a monitoring implant” onto their devices, according to its report.
Project Zero did not specifically name Uyghur Muslims — a pan-national ethnic group of Turkic-speaking people with a large population in China — as the focus of the attack, but Apple responded by confirming the attacks against content related to the group.
Hackers associated with the Chinese government compromised websites frequented by ethnic minority Uyghurs earlier this year, programming them to install monitoring implants to spy on the phones of users that visited them, according to researchers https://t.co/9lSNOnOF5t
— CNN (@CNN) September 5, 2019
“The sophisticated attack was narrowly focused,” Apple said in a statement on its website, adding that the hacking “affected fewer than a dozen websites that focus on content related to the Uighur community. Regardless of the scale of the attack, we take the safety and security of all users extremely seriously.”
The statement continued to explain that Apple has since fixed the “vulnerabilities” with its iOS.
“We fixed the vulnerabilities in question in February — working extremely quickly to resolve the issue just 10 days after we learned about it. When Google approached us, we were already in the process of fixing the exploited bugs,” the statement reads.
— Afraid Canvas (@AfraidCanvas) September 3, 2019
“Security is a never-ending journey and our customers can be confident we are working for them. iOS security is unmatched because we take end-to-end responsibility for the security of our hardware and software,” Apple’s statement concluded. “Our product security teams around the world are constantly iterating to introduce new protections. … We will never stop our tireless work to keep our users safe.”
Apple did not give any further information regarding how the attackers’ campaign worked. (RELATED: Mike Pence Says He Is Open To Sanctioning Chinese Officials Over Muslim Internment: Report)
“Project Zero posts technical research that is designed to advance the understanding of security vulnerabilities, which leads to better defensive strategies,” a Google spokesperson told Wired in response to Apple’s statement. “We stand by our in-depth research which was written to focus on the technical aspects of these vulnerabilities. We will continue to work with Apple and other leading companies to help keep people safe online.”
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