Security

Apple says Uighurs targeted in iPhone attack but disputes Google findings

Sept 6 (Reuters) – Apple Inc AAPL.O on Friday confirmed
that China’s Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority group considered
a security threat by Beijing, had been the target of attacks due
to iPhone security flaws, but disputed rival Alphabet Inc’s
GOOGL.O description of the effort to track users of the
smartphone in real time.

Google Project Zero researchers said last week that five
security flaws led to a “sustained effort to hack the users of
iPhones in certain communities over a period of at least two
years.”
The researchers did not specify the communities, but CNN,
TechCrunch and other news organizations reported that the
attacks had been aimed at monitoring Uighurs. Reuters recently
reported that China hacked Asian telecommunications companies to
spy on Uighur travelers. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL5N25V52R
Apple said on Friday the attack “was narrowly focused” and
affected “fewer than a dozen websites that focus on content
related to the Uighur community” rather than the “en masse” hack
of iPhone users described by Google researchers. Apple also said
it fixed the issue in February, within 10 days of being notified
by Google.
Apple said evidence suggested that the website attacks
lasted only two months, rather than the two years that Google
researchers had suggested.
“Google’s post, issued six months after iOS patches were
released, creates the false impression of “mass exploitation” to
“monitor the private activities of entire populations in real
time,” stoking fear among all iPhone users that their devices
had been compromised,” Apple said in a newsroom post. “This was
never the case.”
In a statement, Google said it stood by its findings and
would continue to work with Apple and other companies to find
and fix flaws.
“Project Zero posts technical research that is designed to
advance the understanding of security vulnerabilities, which
leads to better defensive strategies,” Google said in statement.
“We stand by our in-depth research which was written to focus on
the technical aspects of these vulnerabilities.”
Google and Apple are rivals in the smartphone market, where
their iOS and Android operating systems vie for users. But
Google’s Project Zero team of researchers is focused on finding
serious security flaws from a wide range of software and
hardware firms, not solely Apple. Last year the group played a
key part in finding security flaws in chips made by Intel Corp
INTC.O .


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