Apple warns Thai activists that they are targets of ‘state-sponsored’ attackers

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At least seven activists calling for reform of the monarchy in Thailand have alleged that their phones were the target of “state-sponsored attackers”.

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Apple reportedly sent warning messages to activists Arnon Nampa and Panusaya Sithijiravattanakul, who are in pre-trial custody following major protests to overthrow the monarchy.

Prajak Kongkirati, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Thammasat University, said he had received two emails from Apple saying his iPhone and iCloud accounts were targeted. He said a “threat notification” had been issued to his Apple account.


Others critical of the Thai government, such as researcher Sarini Achannuntakul and Yingchip Atchanont, an activist from the legal watchdog group iLaw, said they had received similar emails.

Rapper Dechthorne Bamrungmuang, who is part of the “Rap Against Dictatorship” group, posted on Facebook a screengrab of the email he received.

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“Apple believes you are being targeted by state-sponsored attackers who are trying to remotely compromise the iPhone … These attackers are likely targeting you personally because who you are.” are or what you do,” the email read. “If your device is compromised by a state-sponsored attacker, they may be able to remotely access your sensitive data, communications, or even your camera and microphone.”

Anti-government protests began in Thailand in 2019 when courts banned the most vocal party opposing the government of former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha.

In addition to calling for reform of the monarchy, protesters have also criticized the Thai government for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, similar warning alerts were sent on Wednesday to two political activists from Ghana, an opposition politician in Uganda and a dozen journalists in Salvador.

The warnings come on the heels of Apple’s lawsuit against Israeli cyber firm NSO Group and its parent company OSY Technologies for alleged surveillance and targeting of users with their military-grade Pegasus spyware.

The malware, which is one of the most sophisticated in the world, can turn most phones into a spying device to extract messages and data as well as secretly activate microphones and cameras.

Apple said on Tuesday that the NSO group had created a “state-sponsored surveillance technology” aimed at “a small number of users”. However, it was not immediately clear whether alerts had been issued for a similar Pegasus attack.

Internet security monitoring group Citizen Lab identified a Pegasus spyware operator operating in Thailand in 2018.


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