Snowden: Govts can monitor users via secret spyware in iPhones

Posted Jan 25, 2015 by Megan Hamilton
Tucked inside the iPhone is secret spyware that lets governments spy on unsuspecting users, Edward Snowden said recently. Snowden's lawyer says this is why the NSA whistleblower doesn't use these phones, which can be remotely activated to watch users.
iPhone 6.
iPhone 6.
William Hook (CC BY-SA 2.0)
"Edward never uses an iPhone, he's got a simple phone," Anatoly Kucherena told a Russian news agency, Alternet reports. "The iPhone has special software that can activate itself without the owner having to press a button and gather information about him, that's why on security grounds he refused to have this phone."
Edward Snowden  the fugitive US intelligence agent  was granted political asylum by Russia after he ...
Edward Snowden, the fugitive US intelligence agent, was granted political asylum by Russia after he flew in from Hong Kong in June 2013
The Guardian/AFP/File
It's not really clear if the "special software" Kucherena is referring to in the interview is made up of standard diagnostic tools, or if Snowden thinks U.S.-based intelligence agencies have figured out a way to compromise the mobile operating system developed by Apple, TechTimes reports.
Apple was one of the first companies accused of participating in the notorious PRISM data mining project enacted by the NSA following the now-famous release by Snowden of the agency's classified documents. This project allegedly involved extracting a whole range of things most of use in our daily lives — video, audio, pictures, documents, emails and connection logs from devices. This allowed analysts to track the movement of anyone using a device and the communications they are receiving or sending out, TechTimes reports.
When the news of this broke, Apple denied the accusations and stated that the company isn't involved in the supposed PRISM project and that it doesn't grant government agencies direct access to the company's servers.
Subsequent leaks showed that the NSA developed spyware that targeted iPhones, giving agencies access to messages, live microphone feeds, data contained inside the devices as well as location data. It wasn't made clear whether the program was a success, and once again, Apple denied being involved in the development of this spyware.
Apple stated that it has never been involved with the NSA in creating backdoor software for any of the company's products. Apple also said that it's not aware of any alleged programs by the NSA to target the iPhone or any of the company's other products because, it says, the company values the security and privacy of its users, TechTimes reports.
Alternet reports that files from the NSA that have been published recently show that British agency GCHQ utilized the phones UDIDs — these are unique identifiers that every iPhone has — in order to track users. There doesn't seem to be any mention of such spying software in any of the revelations reported so far, but there's a range of documents out there that are thought to be unpublished as yet.
Last year, Apple had reported that it implemented new privacy measures for iPhones and iPads that made it impossible for law enforcement to scrape customers personal data; even if they presented a warrant, The Independent reports.
It was a push to assure customers that their data would be safe because Apple reconfigured its encryption standards for iOS 8, and this supposedly deprived the company of the ability to comply with such requests in the first place.
"Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data," the company said on its website, per The Independent. "So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."
It's really a matter of personal choice as to whether or not to use an iPhone, Kucherena said, but Snowden is looking at this issue from a professional standpoint, Sputnik reported.
He also added that Snowden is satisfied with his life in Russia.
In June 2013, Snowden leaked information that profiled the extensive surveillance practices that are being conducted by U.S. Intelligence, and this changed his life forever. He is wanted in the U.S. on numerous charges, including espionage and government property theft. He was granted asylum on August 1, 2013, and was also given a three-year residency permit by Russia.
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