Apple has hit back at a Google research report suggesting iPhones may have been targeted by a long-running hacking operation, calling it inaccurate and misleading.
Apple spokesman Fred Sainz said in a statement the research released by Google created a ‘’false impression’’ that large numbers of iPhone users may have been compromised.
Sainz said contrary to what Google claimed, the incident was a ‘’narrowly focused’’ attack which affected ‘’fewer than a dozen websites that focus on content related to the Uighur community’’, an ethnic minority in China.
Apple 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.
Operating systems from iOS 10 to iOS 12 were targeted in the hack.
It was able to access users’ apps including Instagram, WhatsApp and Gmail.
Google said it reported the security issues to Apple on February 1.
Apple then released an operating system update on February 7.
Visiting the hacked site was enough for the exploit server to attack your device, and if it was successful, to install a monitoring implant.
‘‘Regardless of the scale of the attack, we take the safety and security of all users extremely seriously,’’ he wrote.
‘‘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.
‘‘This was never the case.’’
Researchers with Google’s Project Zero security taskforce said last week that an ‘indiscriminate’ hacking operation that targeted iPhones used websites to implant malicious software to access photos, user locations and other data.
Sainz said Apple believes that the website attacks were operational for roughly two months, not two years as Google implied.