Users buy the iPhone, NSA controls them. This is not a slogan for the last Apple advertising, it is the uncomfortable truth revealed by another set of NSA documents leaked by Snowden and published by the German magazine Der Spiegel.
The US National Security Agency is able to control every data managed by iPhone, the documents reveal the existence of spyware codenamed DROPOUTJEEP developed by ANT (Advanced or Access Network Technology) division of the Agency that is used to gain backdoor access to numerous electronic devices, including the popular Apple Smarphones.
Last week Der Spiegel published a couple of posts to describe the work done by the NSA hacking unit known as TAO and the Tools used by the agency to hack practically any technology, from hard drives to network appliances.
Der Spiegel: Inside TAO -Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit
Der Spiegel: Shopping for Spy Gear – Catalog Advertises NSA Toolbox
The documents describe DROPOUTJEEP as a spyware that can access virtually every component of the iPhone sniffing out data managed, including voice mail, contact lists, instant messages, and cell tower location.
“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.” reports one of NSA documents published by Der Spiegel.
DROPOUTJEEP was presented by cyber security expert Jacob Appelbaum at the 30c3 conference on Monday, he even speculated on the role played by IT companies like Apple in supporting the NSA surveillance programs providing backdoors access to their products.
A recent report claims that the NSA paid security firm RSA $10 million to adopt as default option a flawed encryption algorithm in one of its popular products.
The document states that the DROPOUTJEEP was designed in 2008 to spy on iPhone devices and first variant of spyware requested the installation through “close-access methods.” But 2008 is five years ago, it’s an eternity, and it is easy to imagine that successive versions of DROPOUTJEEP would focus on remote infection methods.
Apple has refused any claims, like RSA, with an official statement released Tuesday:
“Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone. Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products. We care deeply about our customers’ privacy and security. Our team is continuously working to make our products even more secure, and we make it easy for customers to keep their software up to date with the latest advancements. Whenever we hear about attempts to undermine Apple’s industry-leading security, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate steps to protect our customers. We 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.”
I believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg, a further reflection is needed, what would happen if these instruments falling into the many cyber mercenaries or foreign governments?
It probably has already happened!
(Security Affairs – DROPOUTJEEP, NSA)