Apple has never helped the National Security Agency (NSA) to target its iPhones and, in fact, knew nothing about any such efforts, the company says.
The statement from Apple comes on the heels of a new report that the NSA has the ability to sift through iPhone users’ text messages, contacts and voicemails if it so chooses, courtesy of covert software called Dropout Jeep.
The app, which can be surreptitiously installed on an iPhone without the owner’s knowledge, even enables the NSA to activate the phone’s camera or mic to gain real-time surveillance, according to top-secret NSA documents courtesy of whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine first reported the story Sunday, but the documents were also referenced by security researcher Jacob Applebaum, while speaking at the 30th Chaos Communication Congress in Germany Monday. He said the NSA has a perfect record when it comes to installing Dropout Jeep on targeted iPhones and can even use cell towers to find the phone owner’s location as well as remotely push new files to the devices.
He also questioned Apple’s denials of helping the NSA in any way.
“I don’t really believe that Apple didn’t help them. I can’t really prove it, but (the NSA) literally claim that anytime they target an iOS device, that it will succeed for implantation,” he said during his speech. “Either they have a huge collection of exploits that work against Apple products, meaning that they are hoarding information about critical systems that American companies produce and sabotaging them, or Apple sabotaged it themselves.”
Given Applebaum’s statement, it is little surprise that Apple felt compelled to respond.
“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,” the company said. “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.”
While the NSA declined to comment on the new reports, it did say its interest “in any given technology is driven by the use of that technology by foreign intelligence targets.”
“The United States pursues its intelligence mission with care to ensure that innocent users of those same technologies are not affected,” the agency said.