iSpy: Latest report says NSA has backdoor access to iPhones

The last (we think) NSA spying revelation of the year is a doozy: The agency reportedly has had backdoor access to Apple’s iPhone.

Security researcher Jacob Applebaum said Monday at a presentation in Germany that the spying agency can, among other things, intercept iPhone texts, voicemails, contact lists, and activate the phone’s microphone and camera. All this is enabled by implanted software called DROPOUTJEEP, according to leaked NSA documents dated October 2008 — so it’s unclear whether the access continues. As we wrote yesterday, Applebaum and German magazine Der Spiegel revealed the many things the elite hacking units of the NSA can do, and apparently exploiting the iPhone is one of them.

Applebaum also raised a big question: He said that because the NSA claims a 100 percent success rate in putting spyware on iOS devices, he wonders what part Apple plays in it. “Either [the NSA] have a huge collection of exploits that work against Apple products, meaning they are hoarding information about critical systems that American companies produce, and sabotaging them, or Apple sabotaged it themselves. Do you think Apple helped them with that? I hope Apple will clarify that.”

Apple released a statement today, saying it was not aware of Dropout Jeep, and that it “has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone.” It also said, “whenever we hear about attempts to undermine Apple’s industry-leading security, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate steps to protect our customers.”

It’s just another example of a Silicon Valley company being on the defensive. As we wrote yesterday, networking giant Cisco, which was mentioned in the Spiegel report, denied working with the government on “back doors” and said it would launch an investigation.

The hits just keep coming for tech companies. The documents leaked by former tech government contractor Edward Snowden have revealed that the government has accessed our phone calls; accessed Internet user data; intercepted Google and Yahoo Internet traffic; and more. Many of the tech companies have reacted with indignation; have said they only turn over information when legally compelled to do so; have demanded that the government give them permission to be more transparent about their compliance. As we’ve said before, the tech companies are in a heck of a position: They can either admit knowledge of and cooperation with the exploits, or they have to admit they can’t fully secure their products and/or users’ information.

From Applebaum’s talk: “Some of [the tech companies] are victims, actually. … It’s important to name them so they have to go on record. I think it’s important to know who collaborated, and who didn’t collaborate.”

Has the spying saga had a material effect on tech? Recently, Cisco CEO John Chambers cited the NSA spying revelations as a factor in a slowdown in its sales in China. And Silicon Valley venture capitalist Michael Dearing writes: “The NSA’s version of patriotism is corroding Silicon Valley. Integrity of our products, creative freedom of talented people, and trust with our users are the casualties.”


Photo of an iPhone from Associated Press archives


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  • alrui

    Is someone working on a patch to block these SPIES? I look forward to Thursdays No Agenda Show for their analysis!

  • Rob Wood

    When technology becomes ubiquitous, governments apply it. It’s too late to stop it.

  • thegodfather4u

    You see………..this is the problem in America, like the comment from Rob Wood………they only reason its too late is because you sit there and say “oh well”………this is our damn country and the government works for all of us…..IF IT DOES NOT THEN REPLACE IT………DONT CRY, WIMPER LIKE LITTLE BABIES…….ITS OUR COUNTRY, WHEN YOU FIGHT AND AND ALMOST DIE FOR IT MAYBE THEN YOU WILL BE A DAMN GROWNUP…….

    … When the NSA/CIA violated our rights
    guaranteed to all under the Constitution, they committed TREASON and they
    opened all the privacy doors you and I had to everyone in the entire world. Now
    I have to use a VPN to pay bills, log on my bank, insurance etc, if I don’t all
    my information can be stolen in nano seconds, (and a vpn is no total safeguard
    either) and it is all open now thanks to the NSA committing TREASON against the
    American people and spying on all we held sacred, and the rest are sure to follow
    their game. I assure you all our emails, phones, social network conversations,
    passwords and discussions will be open to anyone and everyone, thus NOW OUR
    EITHER…………no bull, just fact !!!!!!!!!!!!!…TREASON IS PUNISHABLE BY
    DEATH …………………….

  • Gadea

    Who cares?