Photo: Jenny Kane (AP) iPhone user. According to Forbes, the Microsoft operating system, along with Google's, aimed to spy on the Uighur ethnic group in China.
Google's threat analysis group first discovered the scheme early this year (news about the campaign was first released on Thursday). It was a small group of websites designed to infect visitors' devices to gain access to their private information, including live location data and encrypted information in apps such as WhatsApp, iMessage, and Telegram. These sites have been active for two years, during which thousands of visitors allegedly accessed them every week.
In February, Google informed Apple about 14 vulnerabilities that had fixed the website exploited malware within days with iOS 12.1.4. In this update, Apple announced that the bugs known as "memory corruption" were fixed with "improved input validation". The company has not publicly addressed Google's hacking account since the message was released earlier this week.
While the Google team reported only that iPhone users were affected by this attack, sources familiar with the matter told Forbes that devices using Google and Microsoft operating systems were also affected by these sites. This extends the potential extent of an unprecedented attack.
It is unclear whether Google detected or shared evidence of this, as did the attackers using the same method of attacking iPhone users as attempting to sneak malicious code into users' phones when visiting infected websites. When asked about these reported developments, a Google spokesman said the company did not publish any new information. We have also contacted Microsoft and will update this article with their statements.
All this was part of a comprehensive, two-year campaign to oversee the Uyghur community, a Muslim minority group to which the Chinese government often targets a TechCrunch report later confirmed by Forbes. However, Google stated in its release of the hack that "the exploit server has already been enough to visit the hacked site to attack your device. If this was successful, install a surveillance implant. "So it's possible that people outside of this ethnic group are affected by the attack. One source told Forbes that the attacks may have been updated over time to penetrate other operating systems to accommodate changes in community usage.
This would be the latest in a series of anti-ethnic crackdowns launched by the Chinese government and fueled by allegations that the country's remote Xinjiang region is under threat from militant Islamists and separatists. Last year, according to United Nations reports, the state forced 2 million Uyghurs and Muslim minorities into "political camps for indoctrination," prompting more than 20 countries to call on China to end its mass arrest efforts.
Regarding the hack Google recently unveiled, Cooper Quintin, senior technologist at the Digital Rights non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Forbes:
"The Chinese government has systematically targeted the Uighur population for years aimed at surveillance and detention. These attacks are likely to target the Uighur population in China, the Uyghur diaspora outside of China, and people who sympathize with and might help the Uighurs in their struggle for independence. "