On Friday (Sept. 6), Apple confirmed that a largely Muslim minority group in China, the Uighurs, was the target of attacks in a spying attempt tied to iPhone security flaws, but disputed the way Google described the attacks, Reuters reported.
Google’s research team Project Zero recently said that five security flaws on the iPhone led to a “sustained effort to hack the users of iPhones in certain communities over a period of at least two years,” a description Apple disputes.
Apple said the attack was “narrowly focused” and affected “fewer than a dozen websites that focus on content related to the Uighur community.”
The report said China also recently hacked Asian telecommunications companies to spy on the Uighurs, as it considers them a security threat.
Apple said it fixed the problem in February after it was notified of it. And Apple also said the attacks lasted only two months, not two years.
“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. “This was never the case.”
Google said its research was sound.
“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.”
The two companies are rivals, especially in the smartphone market. The Project Zero team maintains that it’s looking for security problems on devices from all companies, not just Apple. Last year, the group helped to find security exploits in Intel Corp chips.
“There have been rumors of remote vulnerabilities requiring no user interaction being used to attack the iPhone, but limited information is available about the technical aspects of these attacks on modern devices,” one of the researchers said, as per previous reports.