State-sponsored hacking: Apple will tell iPhone users about it

To those people hit by government-backed hackers, Apple will send emergency notifications to them. “Apple threat notifications”, a feature that will tell users that they have been hacked and give them advice about the steps they need to take. With the user’s Apple ID, they will arrive as email and iMessage notification to any saved addresses. When users will access the Apple website, users will also see this.

Government-sponsored hacking attacks are often much more sophisticated than those carried out by more sophisticated cybercriminals.

That can make them very difficult to spot. It also means they tend to be used against high profile, vulnerable or important people.

Apple notes that recipients of notifications may be very limited, and may already be aware that they are at risk of such attacks. “These users are targeted individually because of who they are or what they do,” he said on his support page.

“Unlike traditional cybercriminals, government-sponsored attacks use intelligence sources to target a very small number of specific people and their devices, which makes these attacks very difficult to detect and prevent. Government-sponsored attacks are very complicated, cost millions of dollars to develop, and often have short shelf life.

“Most users will not have access to the site through such attacks.”

Apple says the complexity of hacking it seeks to protect people means that it will sometimes send false alarms, and will not be able to send notifications about any attack.

He also said he would not be able to give full details about why he sent the notifications, to make sure the attackers were not able to work around them.

On the support page announcing the new feature, it encourages all users to make sure they are well protected against all kinds of attacks. That includes keeping the devices up-to-date, using a passcode, using strong passwords, installing only secure applications and not clicking links or attachments that do not come from a trusted person.

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