Is Apple Spying on Your iPhone?
According to security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski, every iPhone, iPad, and all other iOS devices can be ransacked by Apple, the NSA, or hackers through remote-access tools “hidden” in the iOS operating system. These tools give a remote user full control of the device and the ability to download nearly every scrap of data it holds. But what's the truth? Read on...
A Secret Backdoor For Spying?
When is a burglar’s secret entrance not a burglar’s secret entrance? When it’s a service entrance that you must consciously unlock when you want service. That’s the gist of the controversy that has raged for the past month over some obscure code buried in Apple’s iOS operating system.
But in his presentation at the HOPE/X security conference on July 18, 2014, Jonathan Zdziarski seemed to indicate something more sinister -- a secret "back door" that any hacker, NSA spook or Apple itself could use to easily access or monitor the data on an iPhone, iPad or iPod.
Zdziarski spoke about services built into iOS with scary names like com.apple.mobile.house_arrest, com.apple.mobile.file_relay and DROPOUTJEEP, an evil-sounding "software implant" capable of remotely and covertly accessing files, text messages, contacts, voicemail, the microphone and camera of a mobile device.
The FUD factory known as the “news media” swarmed all over Zdziarski’s slideshow like ants on a dropped ice cream cone. Publications like The Guardian, Forbes, Ars Technica, Daily Mail and IBTimes UK all rushed out breathless articles about millions of iPhones, iPads, and Mac Airbooks – anything with an Apple logo on it - being wide-open to snooping and pillaging by Apple, the government, and maybe even mind-controlling space monsters from the Pleiades.
Stories about secret backdoors in Windows, popular anti-virus programs, and encryption tools have been making the rounds for years. But none of them have been substantiated. There does seem to be truth in the stories about the NSA intercepting computer hardware enroute to overseas destinations, and implanting spyware or bugging tools. Cisco, a maker of network routers that manage a large portion of the Internet, believes it's true and has complained directly to the White House. But I digress...
Apple Responds to the Spyware Allegations
Apple responded to the hubbub over Zdziarski’s "revelations" with a calm and lengthy disclosure of what all the fuss was about. The first paragraph is reassuring, and you can almost hear the exasperated sarcasm the author must have been stifling:
“Each of these diagnostic capabilities requires the user to have unlocked their device and agreed to trust another computer. Any data transmitted between the iOS device and trusted computer is encrypted with keys not shared with Apple. For users who have enabled iTunes Wi-Fi Sync on a trusted computer, these services may also be accessed wirelessly by that computer.” And further, none of these tools are secret or undocumented.
Predictably, the very same publications that told us all to panic swiftly assigned other reporters to the “nothing to panic about” stories that impugned Zdziarski, the publications’ own source of the “time to panic” stories, who was a sufficiently credible source to justify the panic just a week earlier.
One of the funniest episodes in this clown show was the public exchange of nastygrams between Zdziarski and one of his cattiest detractors, Violet Blue, a “sex and technology pundit” who blogs for ZDNet. Here is Blue’s opening salvo and here is Zdziarki’s Twitter response with comebacks by Blue and others.
The bottom line of the “Apple backdoor for the NSA” story is: nobody is secretly invading your iPhone. At least not with the diagnostic utilities mentioned in Zdziarki’s presentation, which can only be accessed with your conscious permission and cooperation. And the state of tech journalism today is either appalling or amusing. If the sky really does start falling, will anyone believe the warnings?
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 22 Aug 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is Apple Spying on Your iPhone? (Posted: 22 Aug 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved