- Apr 12, 2001
The U.S. National Security Agency could retrieve a vast array of data from compromised iPhones according to an NSA document from 2008 leaked by German magazine Der Spiegel and security researcher Jacob Appelbaum. (via Forbes)
According to the report, the NSA could install special software onto iPhones as part of a program called DROPOUTJEEP, that provides significant access to user data and other relevant information.
DROPOUTJEEP is a software implant for the Apple iPhone that utilizes modular mission applications to provide specific SIGINT functionality. This functionality 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. Command, control and data exfiltration can occur over SMS messaging or a GPRS data connection. All communications with the implant will be covert and encrypted
The NSA in 2008 claimed a 100 percent success rate in installing the software on phones it had physical access to, and it's possible that the spy agency has improved its software so it can be installed remotely or via some sort of social engineering, something that was specifically mentioned in the documents. It's also possible that Apple has closed the security holes the NSA was using, making it more difficult to compromise iOS devices in this manner.
A separate report says that American spy agencies have intercepted shipping packages -- something the NSA calls method interdiction -- containing new electronic devices destined for specific targets, installed special spy software on those devices, and then sent them on their way. One report calls the shipping disruptions some of the "most productive operations" conducted by the NSA.
Appelbaum said in a talk at the Chaos Communication Congress this weekend that he believes Apple assisted the NSA in its spying efforts though he cannot prove it and he hopes Apple will clarify what assistance they do or do not give the NSA. In addition, the NSA has targeted and cracked a number of different smartphones including those running the Android and BlackBerry operating systems.
The relevant portion of his talk begins at 44:30 in the below video.
Earlier in December, Apple CEO Tim Cook and more than a dozen other tech executives met with President Obama to discuss NSA surveillance tactics, following an open letter that Apple and seven other technology companies sent to the President and Congress asking the Government to reform its surveillance tactics.
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Article Link: NSA Was Able to Capture Live Data From Compromised iPhones in 2008, Including Live Camera, GPS, and More