Over a two-year period, a number of malicious websites used in hacking into iPhones were targeting Uyghur Muslims. ‘
According to sources, the websites were part of a state-backed attack, probably China, intended to target the Uyghur community living in the country’s Xinjiang state.
It’s one of the latest campaigns of the Chinese government to attack the minority Muslim community. According to a United Nations human rights committee, last year Beijing has detained over a million Uyghurs in internment camps.
These malicious websites were found and recently revealed by Google security researchers. However, it wasn’t known until now who they were targeting.
The websites were part of the latest effort by the Chinese government to target the religious group where they used a malicious code to infect their iPhone when they visited a booby-trapped web page. In getting unrestricted access to the iPhone’s software, they were able to read the victim’s passwords, messages and track their location in almost real time.
Days after Google privately revealed the flaws in February, Apple fixed the weakness. The hacking campaign was first unveiled this week.
Google said these websites were visited by thousands of people every week for at least two years.
However, it’s not immediately known if Android users were targeted with the same websites.
Victims were enticed to open a link which would take them to one of the malicious websites used to infect their iPhone. It’s a common ploy to infect phones with spyware.
A source said that the websites also infected non-Uyghurs who unintentionally visited them because they came up in Google search, triggering the FBI to alert Google to ask them to remove the site from its index to prevent attacks.
A Google spokesperson refused to comment outside the published research. They could neither confirm nor deny any investigation, said a FBI spokesperson and did not make any further comments.
Following its shocking report, Google had to face some criticism for not revealing the websites used in the campaign. According to researchers, the attacks were “indiscriminate watering hole attacks” with “no target discrimination,” so anyone visiting the site would get their iPhone infected.
However, the company would not disclose who was behind the attacks.
Apple did not make any comments. The Chinese consulate in New York refused to comment also.