January 26, 2015
iPhones Can Rat You Out To NSA, Snowden Claims

iPhones have been getting a lot of heat from privacy advocates for years. It's likely that privacy concerns will continue to be a public relations nightmare for Apple iPhones despite company efforts to include encryption features in its mobile operating system iOS8. Recent comments from Edward Snowden's lawyer reveal that the NSA whistleblower doesn't use iPhones due to professional concerns over security.

Anatoly Kucherena told RIA Novosti that iPhones have software capable of collecting personal information regarding its owner.

"Edward never uses an iPhone, he's got a simple phone," Kucherena said. "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."

The Inquisitr previously reported on a program called "DROPOUTJEEP" which could provide a backdoor into iPhones by way of Apple's mobile iOS. A backdoor of this kind could provide remote access to the iPhone's user data without detection.

The Snowden leaks also revealed that tech giants like Apple and Microsoft were part of a secret surveillance program known as PRISM, which was designed to allow officials to collect user search history, email content, live chats, and file transfers. This according to a Guardian story in June 2013 by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill.

PRISM slideApple released a statement on June 16, 2013 in response to the Guardian PRISM story, stating that it had never heard of the secret program and does not give user data to government agencies without a court order.

Apple also claims that it has not built a secret backdoor into any of its products and services, and that information stored on iPhones and iCloud is not sold to advertisers.

So whom are we to believe? Either the Snowden leaks are an elaborate hoax or tech companies like Apple are lying through their teeth about their commitment to customer privacy. With over 300 million iPhones in active use as of December 2013, iPhone owners may be more interested in how their security features actually work rather than having to make sense of all the NSA surveillance mess and company deniability.

According to The Intercept, despite Apple's improved encryption in iOS devices like iPhones, users are not protected from government surveillance in most cases. This is because Apple encrypts user iCloud data with their own key – not the user's key. This means that, in the event of a court order, iPhones are readily available to rat out their owners to the NSA or any other government agency requesting a peek at user data.

iPhones also rely on a four-digit PIN which makes hacking iPhone devices child's play for intelligence agencies like the NSA. In fact, the 10 most frequently used iPhone codes account for 15 percent of all passwords in use. In short, nearly one in seven iPhones could easily be unlocked without any difficulty.

iPhones common passowrdsIt's also unclear whether audio and video features embedded in iPhones are encrypted at all. The only way to keep some semblance of privacy, iPhone users would have to turn off iCloud data syncing for their devices, which would greatly interfere with the iPhone's usability for common features like contacts.

Apple still has a long way to go to convince customers that their iPhones are safe from prying eyes.

[Image via ABC News.]