Apple downplays importance CIA’s iPhone hacking capabilities

In a massive data dump last week, Wikileaks released thousands upon thousands of highly secretive and sensitive CIA documents which detail the extent of the government agency’s spying tools. Aside from interesting tidbits regarding the CIA attempting to eavesdrop on targets via Samsung HDTVs, the leaked documents also reference the CIA’s efforts to hack into iOS devices.

In fact, the CIA even has a specialized team devoted entirely towards coming up with security exploits for iOS devices, and in particular the iPhone. Even though the iPhone only represents less than 15% of the global market for smartphone marketshare, Apple’s iconic smartphone attracts a disproportionate amount of attention because it’s proven to be quite popular among “social, political, diplomatic and business elites.”

As for what the CIA’s iOS-focused group busies itself with, Wikileaks writes that it has a few zero-day vulnerabilities at its disposal, but it remains unclear if these exploits were devised in-house at the CIA or if they were perhaps purchased from a third-party security company.

Regardless, before worries over the security of iOS devices could even spread, Apple was quick to release a statement (via TechCrunch) assuring iPhone and iPad users that most of the exploits referenced in Wikileaks’ report have been patched. 

Apple is deeply committed to safeguarding our customers’ privacy and security. The technology built into today’s iPhone represents the best data security available to consumers, and we’re constantly working to keep it that way. Our products and software are designed to quickly get security updates into the hands of our customers, with nearly 80 percent of users running the latest version of our operating system. While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities. We always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates.

Of course, some cynics have pointed out that Apple vaguely claims that “many of the issues” brought to light were addressed, leaving some to wonder how many more security vulnerabilities remain unfixed.

What’s particularly intriguing is that Wikileaks claims that the nearly 8,000 pages of documents it released last week only accounts for about 1% of the CIA files they have at their disposal.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.


Leave a Reply