Google’s researchers investigated and revealed earlier last week the hacker sites that targeted iPhones also ended up infiltrating Android and Windows users as well according to Forbes in what appears to be an effort by the Chinese government to spy on a certain ethnic group in China.
It was discovered by Google’s team that iPhones owned by users in a certain region in China called the Uyghurs, who are the largest Muslim population in China living in the Taoyuan County, in north-central Hunan, were being hacked into as a mode of surveillance.
Google’s Threat Analysis Group discovered the Chinese governments scheme to use a small group of websites, which when visited by iPhone users in Uyghur, to gain access to the their private information which included their live location data and encrypted data on apps like WhatsApp, Message and Telegram.
There were 14 vulnerabilities that were exploited on these sites when Google notified Apple back in February of this year. Apple immediately fixed the ‘memory corruption issues’ within days with ‘improved input validation’ with its iOS 12.1.4.
Forbes found out through some of its sources that even though Google reported the hacks happening to iPhone users that in actuality the hacks were also happening to devices using Google and Microsoft OS thus widening the potential size of an already unprecedented attack.
The hacking was part of a broad, two-year effort to gather as much surveillance on the Uyghur population. Even though the Uyghers are a minority Muslim group, it is constantly targeted by the Chinese government according to a TechCrunch report which was later confirmed by Forbes.
According to Google’s discovery, if a user just visited the site it was enough to enable the exploit server to attack their device and if the attack was successful it installed a monitoring implant. So according to the report, users outside of the Uyghur ethnic group could have been affected by the hack attack.
This hacking attack is the latest in the Chinese governments crackdown on the Uyghers because of claims that the Islamist militants and separatist are threatening the country’s remote Xinjiang region. According to reports from the United Nations, over 2 million Uyghers were forced by the Chinese government into ‘political indoctrination camps.’ UN sources say that over 20 countries have called for China to put an end to its ‘mass detention’ efforts.
According to WikiPedia, the World Uyghur Congress estimates the Uyghur population outside of China to be around 1.0–1.6 million.