NEW DELHI: TMC Member of Parliament Mahua Moitra penned a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Wednesday, highlighting alerts received by numerous opposition leaders concerning possible “state-sponsored” threats targeting their iPhones. Moitra urged for measures to ensure their protection, allowing them to fulfil their duties.
The Krishnanagar MP described this alleged “illegal surveillance by the government” as a severe infringement upon the fundamental rights safeguarded by the Constitution.
On Tuesday, several opposition figures, including Moitra, Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena (UBT), Raghav Chadha from AAP, Shashi Tharoor and Pawan Khera from Congress, and CPI(M) general Sitaram Yechury, claimed to have received notifications from Apple regarding potential “state-sponsored attackers attempting remote compromise” of their iPhones. Screenshots of these alerts were posted on their respective handles.
In her communication with Birla, Moitra highlighted that the messages warned of being “targeted by state-sponsored attackers” seeking access to their devices, data, communications, and even their cameras and microphones. Moitra emphasized the gravity of this threat, especially in the context of the Pegasus software incidents from 2019-2021, used to compromise the devices of opposition members, journalists, and civil society figures.
Moitra brought attention to the lack of conclusive action despite raising these concerns in the House, citing the case of Abhishek Banerjee, National General Secretary of the All India Trinamool Congress, as one of the targets.
As elected members of the Indian Parliament, the unauthorized surveillance employing software accessible only to government bodies constitutes a serious infringement upon the fundamental rights protected by our democratic Constitution,” Moitra emphasized in her letter, recognizing Birla’s role as the guardian of the Lok Sabha.
Moitra appealed to Birla to ensure the necessary protection for opposition members to continue their duties of holding the ruling dispensation accountable.
Apple Inc. responded to the claims made by opposition leaders, stating that it doesn’t attribute threat notifications, like the ones received by some MPs from opposition parties to specific state-sponsored attackers. Apple mentioned the possibility of false alarms and undetected attacks.
In response to the opposition’s claims, the government has initiated an investigation through CERT-In. IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw mentioned that Apple has been requested to participate in the investigation by providing accurate information on the alleged state-sponsored attacks.