Published December 31, 2013
Apple on Tuesday vehemently denied suggestions from a security analyst that the company may have helped the NSA to develop backdoor access to the iPhone.
The statement came from security research Jacob Appelbaum, who revealed the existence of a secret program code-named DROPOUTJEEP by which the National Security Agency (NSA) appears to have nearly total access to the Apple iPhone.
A leaked NSA document, posted by German newspaper Der Speigel, describes the “software implant for the Apple iPhone” that can be used to gather information from the phone: It can turn on the microphone and camera, intercept text messages, creep through a contact list and more.
“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,” Appelbaum said at the Chaos Communication Conference in Hamburg, according to tech news site The Daily Dot.
Apple in response said it has never collaborated with the security agency, nor does the consumer electronics giant have any knowledge of the program.
"Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone," the company said in a statement released to TechCrunch. "Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products."
The NSA's spyware reportedly has a 100-percent success rate against iPhones, the Daily Dot reported. The document says the code must be installed “via close access methods,” but states that remote installation of the software will be pursued for a future release.
The leaked document was dated Oct. 1, 2008, and is set to be declassified in 2032. Other leaked documents published by Der Spiegel revealed how the NSA is able to hack into other devices.
Software called GOPHERSET is used to gain access to GSM phones through a "software implant." That exploit can pull phonebook, SMS and call log information from an individual handset, the document declares. And a Windows CE implant called TOTECHASER has similar functionality on Windows phones.
"We care deeply about our customers’ privacy and security," Apple said. "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."