In the past week, allegations have been running rampant that the NSA has unfettered remote access to any iPhone user’s device at all times. Der Spiegel, a German magazine, broke the news that the NSA uses a software implant for the iPhone called DROPOUT JEEP, which “includes the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device, SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell tower location, etc.,” according to documents that were released at the time.
Since the news broke, a number of critics – including Jacob Applebaum, a prominent security researcher and hacker – have been pointing the finger at Apple, suggesting the company must have been complicit in the NSA’s snooping.
“I don’t really believe that Apple didn’t help them,” said Applebaum in a speech. “I can’t really prove it, but [the NSA] literally claim that anytime they target an iOS device, that it will succeed for implantation.”
In the midst of the firestorm, Apple has held its ground, saying it did not help the NSA create backdoor exploits to its devices and that it takes the privacy of its customers very seriously.
“Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including the iPhone,” said Kristin Huguet, director, corporate PR, Apple, on Tuesday. “Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products.”
But is Der Spiegel’s revelation really worth all this hysteria? Other sources have said that the wording of the documents has been overlooked. Yoni Heisler at the Unofficial Apple Weblog was quick to point out that the NSA needs physical access to a device if it wishes to rifle through its data.
According to the documents released by Der Spiegel, “the initial release of DROPOUT JEEP will focus on installing the implant via close access methods. A remote capability will be pursued in a future release.”
These documents, however, were produced in 2008. Who knows what other tricks the NSA has stashed up its sleeve since then?
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