iPhone 5S the NSA's wet dream: Anonymous

Metaratings
11 Sep 2013
00:00
Article

Anonymous has called the new iPhone 5S fingerprint scanner the “NSA’s wet dream” in a message on Twitter and in light of the latest revelations from Edward Snowden published in German daily Der Spiegel, they may well be right on this one.

Two days ago Spiegel published a story focusing on leaked NSA and CGHQ documents about the iPhone and Blackberry.

The newspaper said that the US spy agency does not only bug embassies and tap undersea fiber cables, but they also engage in infiltration of smartphones.

Slides from a 2010 presentation showed how the NSA could pull photos of targets’ iPhones, including a former defence secretary’s son with his arm around a young woman, a photo of someone in the mountains of Afghanistan, a target in Thailand and one government official of a foreign country who took a picture of himself on a couch in front of a TV.

It was also possible to use that famous iOS tracking so-called bug to map a target’s historical whereabouts. Since the bug had been patched, only seven days’ historical tracking could be pulled, which is still seven days too much.

The iPhone spying capability seems focused more on the iTunes backup files on a computer and the phone itself did not even needed to be touched. The NSA had 38 different scripts for iOS 3 and 4.

A devotee of the Church of Jobs might argue that security has progressed in leaps and bounds since 2010. Perhaps, but so have the capabilities of the Axis of Espionage.

For BlackBerry, the article was even more damning with GCHQ being able to crack BlackBerry’s much vaunted encryption.

The slide published showed intercepted communication from BES, the Blackberry Enterprise Server, not BIS, its cloud Blackberry Internet Service. BES usually resides on-site in a company’s data center and has been marketed as a secure solution.

The report also noted that the more common BIS, which everyone of us not wearing a corporate suit uses, only compresses data without encrypting it. This would leave it wide open to a man-in-the-middle attack from anyone, much line Naver’s LINE messaging app.

It is as if these companies are scrambling to compete with each other to make private conversations easy to be intercepted.

Would this be the last nail in RIM’s coffin? RIM was rumoured to be selling off BBM and these leaks could not have come at a worse time. The only thing that the Canadian company had going for it was its reputation for enterprise-level security and that myth has now been blown clear out of the water.

Microsoft was not mentioned in the Spiegel story, but Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian Journalist who received the documents from Edward Snowden, has previously claimed that Microsoft has actively designed all its systems across the board to allow the NSA real-time access, including Outlook.com’s chat and Skype. Windows Phone hardly seems secure with such lineage. With Microsoft moving to a cloud-based service for its core Office suite, is nothing safe and secret anymore? Indeed, are any of Microsoft’s core products safe from the NSA spy files fallout?

One could argue that the Axis of Espionage uses these tools to help protect us and spies only on terrorists, unlike the Russians and Chinese who spy on their own people. Who could forget how Chinese dissident Shi Tao was just freed after eight years in prison, eight years after Yahoo gave up his information to allow the Chinese to identify him in the first place.

But time and time again, the NSA files have proven this American ideal to be untrue.

Apart from tapping various European missions and Qatari television station Al-Jazeera, days ago it emerged that the NSA was spying on Brazilian state oil company Petrobras and before that on the private communications of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff - whom I doubt very much is a terrorist.

But back to the launch of the iPhone 5S and 5C. The NSA slide deck not only tore apart Apple’s security, but it poured scorn on Cupertino and its customers. It referred to iPhone users as zombies, spending their money to be complicit in their own surveillance, and it referred to Steve Jobs as Big Brother.

One wonders if Tim Cook was so lucky when he met with Obama a few weeks ago to discuss surveillance.

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