Forensic Scientist Reveals Suspicious Back Doors Running on iPhones

by Istvan Fekete on July 22, 2014

Apple designed the iPhone to be “reasonably secure” against a typical attacker but left a back door for itself and the government, forensic scientist and author Jonathan Zdiarski said at the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE/X) conference (via ZDNet).

Zdiarski is known as the hacker “NerverGas” in the iPhone development community, as he has worked as a dev-team member on many of the early iOS jailbreaks and is the author of five iOS-related O’Reilly books including Hacking and Securing iOS Applications.

To fully understand what Zdiarski’s findings lead to, we need to go back a bit in time to December 2013, when security researcher Jacob Applebaum revealed an NSA surveillance program dubbed DROPOUTJEEP. The catch is that this program gave the agency almost complete access to the iPhone.

The leaked NSA document dates from 2008 – the iPhone was released in 2007 – and noted the malware required “implant via close access methods” (we can assume that this means physical access to the iPhone), but what’s more important is that a “remote installation capability will be pursued for a future release.”

That was in 2008. Now Zdiarski’s keynote points to a number of undocumented high-value forensic services running on every single iOS device and “suspicious design omissions in iOS that make collection easier.”

Zdiarski says the iPhone is “reasonably secure” to a typical attacker, and that the iPhone 5 and iOS 7 are secure from (almost) everybody – Evad3rs have managed to jailbreak the device – except Apple and the government. Apple “has worked hard to ensure that it can access data on end-user devices on behalf of law enforcement”, says the forensic scientist.

For those who may be unaware, Apple says the data found on the iPhone is encrypted, so nobody can access it. That’s not exactly how it works in reality, Zdiarski says: if you thought that locking down the screen with a simple password would encrypt your data, think again; the only way to encrypt your data is to shut it down. The moment you power on the iPhone, you increase the risk of spilling all data, as the device is always authenticated, even while locked, Zdiarsky emphasizes.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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