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Monday, July 28, 2014

Apple has their eyes on you -- but, then again, what computer technology isn't?

Apple May Be Spying On You Through Your iPhone


- Personal data including text messages, contact lists and 

photos can be extracted from iPhones through previously 

unpublicized techniques by Apple Inc employees, the 

company acknowledged this week.

The same techniques to circumvent backup encryption could 

be used by law enforcement or others with access to the 

"trusted" computers to which the devices have been 

connected, according to the security expert who prompted 

Apple's admission.

In a conference presentation this week, researcher Jonathan 

Zdziarski showed how the services take a surprising amount 

of data for what Apple now says are diagnostic services 

meant to help engineers.

Users are not notified that the services are running and 

cannot disable them, Zdziarski said. There is no way for 

iPhone users to know what computers have previously been 

granted trusted status via the backup process or block future 

connections.

“There’s no way to `unpair' except to wipe your phone,” he 

said in a video demonstration he posted Friday showing 

what he could extract from an unlocked phone through a 

trusted computer.

As word spread about Zdziarski’s initial presentation at the 

Hackers on Planet Earth conference, some cited it as 

evidence of Apple collaboration with the National Security 

Agency.

Apple denied creating any “back doors” for intelligence 

agencies.

“We have designed iOS so that its diagnostic functions do not 

compromise user privacy and security, but still provides 

needed information to enterprise IT departments, 

developers and Apple for troubleshooting technical issues,” 

Apple said. “A user must have unlocked their device and 

agreed to trust another computer before that computer is 

able to access this limited diagnostic data.”

But Apple also posted its first descriptions of the tools on its 

own website, and Zdziarski and others who spoke with the 

company said they expected it to make at least some changes 

to the programs in the future.

Zdziarski said he did not believe that the services were 

aimed at spies. But he said that they extracted much more 

information than was needed, with too little disclosure.

Security industry analyst Rich Mogull said Zdziarski’s work 

was overhyped but technically accurate.

“They are collecting more than they should be, and the only 

way to get it is to compromise security,” said Mogull, chief 

executive officer of Securosis.

Mogull also agreed with Zdziarski that since the tools exist, 

law enforcement will use them in cases where the desktop 

computers of targeted individuals can be confiscated, hacked 

or reached via their employers.

“They’ll take advantage of every legal tool that they have and 

maybe more,” Mogull said of government investigators. 

Asked if Apple had used the tools to fulfill law enforcement 

requests, Apple did not immediately respond.

For all the attention to the previously unknown tools and 

other occasional bugs, Apple’s phones are widely considered 

more secure than those using Google Inc's rival Android 

operating system, in part because Google does not have the 

power to send software fixes directly to those devices. 

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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