Apple denies involvement in NSA eavesdropping on iPhone users

Apple has steered clear of the NSA controversy by denying their involvement in creating backdoors in iOS for the agency.

German magazine, Der Spiegel, has published various reports exposing the NSA's tactics to spy on users. In a recent article, the magazine claimed that iPhones can be spied on using a software called "DROPOUT JEEP" created by the NSA using backdoors present in iOS. Now, Apple has denied all the claims and insists that they have not worked with the NSA to create backdoors in iOS which facilitate spying on iPhone users.

The report from Der Spiegel includes details of the spying program referred to as "software implant" which allows the infiltrators to access data such as contacts and messages and can remotely activate the phone's microphone and camera as well.

According to the information gathered from leaked NSA documents, the program which allows the agency to access the personal data on iPhones has a 100 percent success rate when implanting into the device, which is a major security concern if true. In its reply, Apple has reaffirmed that, they will "continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who's behind them."

It was reported recently that the NSA goes to various lengths to include the spyware on PCs before shipping to consumers, and the new report exposes more of the agency's reach when it comes to surveillance.

Source: Der Spiegel via Daily Mail | Digital Eye image via Shutterstock

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Are you replacing pay TV with Internet options?

Next Story

Modern UI Firefox for Windows 8 delayed again till March

43 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Apple can deny it all they want but the perception will be, rightly or wrongly they are working with the nsa.

Wonder how long it will be before we hear all the AV and firewall software has been fingered by the nsa etc ....

Wouldnt be surprised if MS, Apple, Google, and others are working with the NSA.

I'm not certain. I'd say that they're all compromised (their data streams are all physically accessible by the government), but given what the NSA is and what it is committed to doing, I lean towards the idea that they'd rather not ask for permission since doing so necessitates that they disclose to a third party what they're doing.

I'm pretty sure the NSA doesn't ask for permission for most of their "work", as shown when it was found out that they were phisically tapping on the tubes between Google's data centers.

Also worth checking Applebaum's talk:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0w36GAyZIA

That doesn't exclude the possibility that they could also be requesting cooperation from companies. Governments do that all the time when they request information about specific users, and we only get to know it because companies are allowed to disclose an anonymized list of the number of said requests.

ichi said,
I'm pretty sure the NSA doesn't ask for permission for most of their "work", as shown when it was found out that they were phisically tapping on the tubes between Google's data centers.

Also worth checking Applebaum's talk:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0w36GAyZIA

That doesn't exclude the possibility that they could also be requesting cooperation from companies. Governments do that all the time when they request information about specific users, and we only get to know it because companies are allowed to disclose an anonymized list of the number of said requests.


thanks for the link, I've never seen these types of talks and found it super interesting... Will look further into this whole discussion...

NSA has it's dirty little fingers into every facet of technology possible. I don't believe for second any company is unaware of this....especially the ones cashing in on it, which we'll learn more about later this year.

Also I sure enjoy people that still try to make the tinfoil hat jokes these days. Despite admissions and discoveries everywhere you turn, they insist on keeping with their "programming". Laughable.

The number of discoveries are just getting more and more crazy...

Just hope it's not about to destroy the trust of some of the preferred companies like Google or Apple since that's where the majority of users are.

Edited by JeanKadang, Jan 2 2014, 4:11pm : Spelling and wording...

Hahaiah said,
NSA has it's dirty little fingers into every facet of technology possible. I don't believe for second any company is unaware of this....especially the ones cashing in on it, which we'll learn more about later this year.

Also I sure enjoy people that still try to make the tinfoil hat jokes these days. Despite admissions and discoveries everywhere you turn, they insist on keeping with their "programming". Laughable.


"Admissions and discoveries" by whom, and how well documented? The reason people make tin foil hat accusations is because they watch people run around in a panic over theories and possibilities.

Companies are STILL under threat of legal action if they disclose more than the government allows them to, yet we're happy to fill in the blanks for them with whatever our imaginations can come up with.

Every stupid reference to V for Vendetta and 1984 makes people look more and more like the tin foil hat brigade, and less and less like people who can be taken seriously, because it's the sort of people who make those kinds of references who sound more excited about the opportunity to rage against the machine than genuinely sound concerned.

We need "Edward Snowdens" from within Apple, Microsoft and Google who will "show us the code" and ultimately result in abandonment of NSA civil spying followed by criminal offences against top NSA managers.

lexp said,
We need "Edward Snowdens" from within Apple, Microsoft and Google who will "show us the code" and ultimately result in abandonment of NSA civil spying followed by criminal offences against top NSA managers.

We need employees to publish bits and pieces of confidential information out of context and then flee the country to avoid being taken to court afterwards, giving tech bloggers their hard-on fix for another six months of getting people emotionally worked up over what can never be more than speculation?

Cool.

"Now, Apple has denied all the claims and insists that they have not worked with the NSA to create backdoors in iOS which facilitate spying on iPhone users."
!=
There is no backdoor in iOS which can be/is being exploited by NSA

Even if Apple did it, they'd have a gag order on them.

But in this case, I'm not so sure they did. If evasi0n can hack even the latest version of iOS to get root acess, why shouldn't the NSA be able to? These are guys that don't hire hackers working for evasi0n because they aren't considered good enough. I think involving Apple would just complicate things for the NSA and that they prefer working alone whenever possible. They are, after all, working with sensitive matters that aren't meant to leak.

Edited by Northgrove, Jan 2 2014, 12:01pm :

It's not that NSA shouldn't be able to take advantage of exploits that is the most bothersome thing, it's that they purposefully weaken encryption and security of these devices to make access easier. The devices would be much safer without these intentional weaknesses. One example: http://blog.0xbadc0de.be/archives/155

It's another non-denial denial. They deny certain red herrings, but they didn't say there was no NSA backdoor. All they said was that they didn't cooperate with the NSA to create one. The NSA could have done all the work. They said they weren't aware of a specific program, but they didn't say they didn't give the NSA general access for any reason - why would the NSA tell them of a specific program? They don't have to justify anything apparently.

They could have been clear and said "there are no backdoors in our software. The NSA and/or any other organization cannot access customer data or communications under any circumstance." but they sent out a statement full of logical holes to distract their investors and consumer base.

Edited by Geezy, Jan 2 2014, 2:37pm :

So what would you do if you needed good PR and were forced by the NSA? You're forced to cooperate and cannot reveal said cooperation since it's classified: http://www.businessinsider.com...on-to-ignore-the-nsa-2013-9

Marissa Meyer, Yahoo CEO: "In 2007 Yahoo filed a lawsuit against the new Patriot Act, parts of PRISM and FISA, we were the key plaintiff. A lot of people have wondered about that case and who it was. It was us ... we lost. The thing is, we lost and if you don't comply it's treason." & "we can't talk about those things because they're classified"

Where do the hats come in? This is all stuff that is on the record in the media.

Previously - i would say - only americans could be so paranoid against their government...

But with the amount of leaks of NSA info and snowden....

'murica - no thanks...

Steven P. said,
This doesn't just apply to US iPhones btw.

not just iphones, too. and i see that pretty much made america _very_ popular among its "friends".

JeanKadang said,
Previously - i would say - only americans could be so paranoid against their government...

But with the amount of leaks of NSA info and snowden....

'murica - no thanks...


Snowden is just a traffic generator for The Guardian. I've yet to read a single article that would pass basic Wikipedia citation guidelines.

Weird how the accused parties would act like it's threatening then. If they have nothing to hide, why are they afraid?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12...of-snowdens-leaks.html?_r=0

“They've spent hundreds and hundreds of man-hours trying to reconstruct everything he has gotten, and they still don't know all of what he took,” a senior administration official said.

Seems like the government thinks they have something important & legit?

If Apple had been issued a secret court order instructing them to insert a backdoor into iOS and at the same time told to lie and deny it under severe penalty, then how can we know if they are telling the truth?

This applies equally to Microsoft, Google, and any other US mobile phone maker of course.

ramesees said,
If Apple had been issued a secret court order instructing them to insert a backdoor into iOS and at the same time told to lie and deny it under severe penalty, then how can we know if they are telling the truth?

This applies equally to Microsoft, Google, and any other US mobile phone maker of course.

And to be honest, and unlike most of you people here, I'd trust MS over the lot of them any day! Not that I would trust MS that much more though. Google would easily be the company I trust the least though.

Some how, security on a phone, just doesn't seem like a reality, to me.

That's the same argument used to by space alien conspiracy theorists. It's not a real argument. The burden of proof is on those making the claim and not on anyone to prove a negative.

cork1958 said,

And to be honest, and unlike most of you people here, I'd trust MS over the lot of them any day! Not that I would trust MS that much more though. Google would easily be the company I trust the least though.

Some how, security on a phone, just doesn't seem like a reality, to me.

Honestly despite being an Apple and Google device user, as well as a Windows user, I'd trust none of them at all. I use the technology because it's extremely empowering, and frankly because I'd find it hard to get by without it... but honestly I wouldn't trust any of the big tech companies at all.

I absolutely refuse to believe that none of them know anything about what's been happening - as far as I'm concerned the smartest guys will be working for those companies, not the government, so they'd know. And even if not the top engineers, the executives must know.

But as the OP says, I find it most likely that they've basically been told if they tell the public, they'll get absolutely screwed by the NSA in a secret court or something.

Mr. Hand said,
That's the same argument used to by space alien conspiracy theorists. It's not a real argument. The burden of proof is on those making the claim and not on anyone to prove a negative.

Much unlike alien conspiracies, gag orders are a proven reality that has been upheld in court and which has been used already for similar purposes in the case of Lavabit.

ichi said,

Much unlike alien conspiracies, gag orders are a proven reality that has been upheld in court and which has been used already for similar purposes in the case of Lavabit.

And the argument is "prove it wasn't used" which is demanding a proof of a negative. That's a fallacy and no different from conspiracy nuts.

Mr. Hand said,

And the argument is "prove it wasn't used" which is demanding a proof of a negative. That's a fallacy and no different from conspiracy nuts.

No one is demanding anything to be disproved, it's just being suggested that a gag order could be a possibility.

It's getting scary the way it's going. - People are starting to mistrust even respectable companies - company bias aside - like Google/Android, Apple/iOS and Microsoft due to NSA !!

So the american government/companies ranted against allowing companies like huawei in use on infrastructure - but we should be trusting their own companies - where later info is leaking that NSA is bypassing everything anyway...

Hope this get's solved soon and all info is spilled/leaked/acknowledged so we can get to the bottom of this stupid mess...

ramesees said,
If Apple had been issued a secret court order instructing them to insert a backdoor into iOS and at the same time told to lie and deny it under severe penalty, then how can we know if they are telling the truth?

This applies equally to Microsoft, Google, and any other US mobile phone maker of course.

That's the scary part, the US gov is out of control

With all that crazy info leaking and accusations - the problem is if NSA has become a government in itself inside the government...

It sure acts like one - or we're not getting the complete truth (which i doubt anyway)

interestingly google is not mentioned anywhere where they gave User's Data to chinese government, US government and use user's info for advertising and selling it to adv. companies.

ramesees said,
If Apple had been issued a secret court order instructing them to insert a backdoor into iOS and at the same time told to lie and deny it under severe penalty, then how can we know if they are telling the truth?

This applies equally to Microsoft, Google, and any other US mobile phone maker of course.


I get the feeling a business can't be compelled to lie. Refrain from comment, sure. Remain silent, sure. But I'd challenge someone to find an adequately documented precedent of the US government requiring a business to make provably false statements to the public.

They don't have to lie when they can get a lawyer to draft a compelling nondenial denial. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-denial_denial

Non-denial denial is a statement that seems direct, clearcut and unambiguous at first hearing, but when carefully parsed is revealed not to be a denial at all, and is thus not untruthful. It is a case in which words that are literally true are used to convey a false impression; analysis of whether or when such behavior constitutes lying is a long-standing issue in ethics.

Example:

In response to allegations by Merkel of the NSA spying on her phone, the White House spokesman Jay Carney said in 2013 that the United States "is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications" of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.[6] This statement deliberately ignores any possible past spying, and only refers to the present and the future, making it sound as-if they're denying spying on Merkel, while in reality they aren't.

Said phone tap may date back to 2002; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...ngela-merkel_n_4166326.html

Edited by Geezy, Jan 2 2014, 7:32pm :

Mr. Hand said,
That's the same argument used to by space alien conspiracy theorists. It's not a real argument. The burden of proof is on those making the claim and not on anyone to prove a negative.

If you honestly believe Apple didn't help them with access, then you're the one with problems.

There's no way the NSA would be able to do this with soo many companies without any of them knowing. Plain and simple truth. They were threatened with legal action if they didn't follow along.

This goes for Apple, MS and Google. Any company the NSA has access to in this way. Keep telling yourself that none of them knew. You're just lying to yourself and showing a lot of ignorance.

If anyone wants to place blame, place it on the people responsible for 9/11. It was going on before then, but after that date they increased it and it will never stop because people are too lazy to fight.

It's going on all over the world just incase people have forgotten that fact. Some of you make it sound like its only in the USA or how the ignorant here refer to it "Murica".

trojan_market said,
interestingly google is not mentioned anywhere where they gave User's Data to chinese government, US government and use user's info for advertising and selling it to adv. companies.

Interenstingly Google got out of mainland China to not abide by Goventment censorship. Others didn't.

Let alone that Google China had a different policy on collection and storage of user information so it wasn't available to be requested by the Chinese government, which on the other hand also meant that not every Google service could be available in that country.