Ed Snowden leaked the documents, Germany’s Der Spiegel parsed the data and, now, we know about DROPOUTJEEP, an NSA program that claims 100 percent effectiveness in capturing any iPhone. Moreover, the NSA intimates it can take control of your Apple smartphone remotely, which is a fairly scary prospect.
And, according to Der Spiegel’s Jacob Appelbaum, that level of infiltration and control could only mean that the NSA is a whole lot more powerful than anyone imagined or that Apple is colluding with the spy agency. That said, although the NSA’s ambition is known to be limitless, their practical abilities have come up short time and again.
Nevertheless, an unnamed Apple spokesman has popped to to deny knowledge of DROPOUTJEEP, software that can be implanted on an iPhone, or Apple collusion with the NSA of any kind:
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.
This is, quite naturally, exactly what Apple would be expected to say. In fact, the company has previously denied the existence of a backdoor. And, of course, in saying “iPhone,” it has be assumed that all iOS devices are included.
DROPOUTJEEP: A Question of Competence
Apple CEO Tim Cook emailed a customer in July to say that there is no backdoor in iOS. “[W]e do not take source code from any government,” Cook said at the time.
While the NSA claims DROPOUTJEEP is 100 percent effective, it seems extremely unlikely that could hit that very, very high level of proficiency. Again, the NSA’s ambition is limitless, but their competence is questionable at best.
Whereas I have no doubt the NSA wants to do these things, and is actively trying to, there are serious doubts that America’s oft incompetent spies could actually pull it off.
So, are Der Spiegel’s DROPOUTJEEP allegations credible? Is Apple dirty?