No, The NSA Can’t Hack Your iPhone Any Time It Likes
ONE of the claims that was made over the break was that the NSA, the US crypto spies, could hack into anyone’s iPhone any time. This was all as a result of the Edward Snowden documents of course. The sad thing about this is that it was rather blown up out of proportion by one Jacob Appelbaum, one of the hangers on along with Glen Greenwald and Laura Poitras, around those Snowden documents.
Appelbaum went on to demand that Apple reveal which of the two dastardly things it had been doing: had it been cooperating with the NSA? Or had it just left the most appalling security breach open just for the hell of it?
The problem with this demand is that, well, the NSA didn’t actually say that it could hack any iPhone any time. What it did say is that if it could get close contact with one specific iPhone then it could hack that. And that’s a very different claim indeed: for you or I could hack an iPhone if we had close contact with it.
OK, so maybe we could do it entirely ourselves but we could find, in about 10 minutes in any major city, find someone who could do it for us. All that needs to be done is to jailbreak the phone, so that you don’t have to go through the Apps Store to load software onto it, then load your favourite piece of malware.
And Appelbaum, being a security expert, does in fact know this. You get physical hold of just about any piece of hardware and you can hack it. It’s just not difficult. But instead he’s left the world with the impression that the NSA can hack iPhones without getting anywhere near them: and being able to do it remotely is a very different kettle of fish and there’s absolutely no evidence at all that they can do this.
Quite why he did this I’m not sure. Of course, it’s possible to get carried away with your own rhetoric at times: but maybe he’s got some agenda about bigging all of this up? Who knows?