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CIA Targeted Apple Devices For Years

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

According to a new report published by The Intercept, the CIA ran a sustained program of hacking into Apple’s devices (including iPhones and iPads) for almost a decade. The report is based on the latest set of documents leaked by Edward Snowden and it shows how the American intelligence agencies are working in the background to enhance their surveillance capabilities. Although the report did not provide any evidence regarding whether the CIA was actually able to compromise iPhone or iPad security, the news should be of concern for civil liberty groups and privacy conscious individuals.

The documents leaked by Snowden cover a time window between 2006 and 2013 so the report offers a deep insight into how the CIA targeted Apple over a period of time. As per the report, CIA started its campaign to crack open the security of Apple’s devices way back in 2006 (one year before iPhone was launched in the market) and continued it well after 2010 (the year iPad made its debut). The report also says that the details about the efforts to target Apple and Microsoft products were presented at the annual “Trusted Computing Base Jamboree” event which is held at Lockheed Martin’s Northern Virginia facility every year.

As per The Intercept, the CIA tried a number of ways to break into iPads, iPhones and even desktop computers and laptops created by Apple. For instance, a 2012 presentation titled “Strawhorse: Attacking the Mac OS and iOS Software Development” shows how the agency tried to create a compromised variety of Xcode, the software paltform used to create applications for iOS and OS X. A compromised version of Xcode would have allowed the intelligence agencies to read personal messages stored on iPhones and iPads, steal passwords and other sensitive data, create backdoors capable of transmitting data stealthy and even disable the most important security features available on Apple’s products. Another presentation captured discussions related to physical and electromagnetic extraction of Apple’s Group ID (GID), the encryption key used to secure the company’s mobile ecosystem while a separate presentation mentioned the possibility of installing keyloggers on Mac computers through a compromised version of OS X updater.

In the wake of the latest disclosures, many security experts have criticized the tactics adopted by the US intelligence agencies to spy on innocent people. Matthew Green, who works in cryptography at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute, said that installing backdoors and tearing apart products created by the American companies does not fit into the description of ‘targeting bad guys’. Steven Bellovin, former Chief Technologist at Federal Trade Commission and currently a Professor at Columbia University, said that he is not surprised by the actions taken by the intelligence agencies in order to get the information that they desire. He also added that the spy agencies were capable of adjusting their surveillance tactics as per the situation using methods working at that time.

The report also makes a mockery of the stand taken by the US Government in response to China’s demand of installing backdoors into US made tech products (read more about it here – https://vpncoupons.com/china-asks-foreign-tech-firms-to-reveal-source-code-of-their-products/). On one hand, the CIA thinks that it is perfectly alright to install backdoors into Apple’s and Microsoft’s products while on the other, the US government is protesting similar demands made by other governments.

July 29, 2015

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