Activists in Thailand calling for democratic reforms in the royalist government received a warning message from Apple that they may have been targeted by “state-sponsored” spying attacks.
At least six activists and researchers critical of Thailand’s government were surprised with a personalized alert on Wednesday, Nov. 24, from Apple Inc, confirming that their iPhones had been targeted by ‘government-sponsored spies,’ The Guardian reported.
As reported by those who confirmed receiving the statement, it came through their email accounts saying:
“If your device is compromised by a state-sponsored attacker, they may be able to remotely access your sensitive data, communications, or even the camera and microphone. While it’s possible this is a false alarm, please take this warning seriously.”
Not all warning messages were exactly the same, a testament to the customization of the messages sent by Apple.
Warnings were sent to well-known activists Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Arnon Nampa, according to Panusaya’s sister May and the administrator of Arnon’s Facebook page.
Panusaya and Arnon are in pre-trial detention after leading demonstrations calling for curbs on the monarchy’s power.
Meanwhile, researcher Sarinee Achananuntakul and activist Yingcheep Atchanont of legal monitoring group iLaw shared that they had received similar emails via social media.
So did Thai rapper Dechathorn Bamrungmuang, popularly known as Hockhacker of the group Rap Against Dictatorship, who claimed to have received an Apple-signed alert of the style and posted a screenshot of the message on his Facebook page.
The rapper’s music has repeatedly targeted the monarchy and the military-backed government. As a result, Dechathorn is facing serious sedition charges.
The message posted by Dechathorn read, “Apple believes you are being targeted by state-sponsored attackers … These attackers are likely targeting you individually because of who you are or what you do. If your device is compromised by a state-sponsored attacker, they may be able to remotely access your sensitive data, communications, or even the camera and microphone. While it’s possible this is a false alarm, please take this warning seriously.”
So far it is not confirmed how many people received this type of message, since Apple did not make any official statement about it.
But at least 17 people of public recognition reported on social media or told The Guardian directly that they had received similar messages.
While Apple did not make a specific comment on what happened in Thailand, it did announce this week that it had filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, claiming that its Pegasus software had been used to “target a small number of Apple users around the world with malware and spyware.”
Techcrunch, a media outlet focused on IT news, reported that Apple also sent similar alerts to a number of users in El Salvador and Uganda.
In Uganda, the chairman of the conservative Democratic Party, Norbert Mao, also reportedly received the warning from Apple in a Twitter message.