Apple says its diagnostic tools “do not compromise user privacy” but researchers say the un-publicised tools give access to ‘excessive’ data
Apple has been accused of intentionally installing security backdoors in some 600 million iOS devices that offer surveillance-level access to data including photos, browsing history and GPS locations.
The vulnerabilities were uncovered by security expert Jonathan Zdziarski, who presented an academic paper on the subject at a hacker conference in New York last Friday.
Apple has issued a statement in response to the allegations saying that the company’s “diagnostic functions do not compromise user privacy and security,” but Zdziarski has responded by noting that these services “dish out data” regardless of whether the user has agreed to diagnostics.
“There is no way to disable these mechanisms,” Zdziarski writes on his personal blog. “This makes it much harder to believe that Apple is actually telling the truth here.”
The backdoors reportedly cover a range of hidden tools and protocols that activate with “paired” computers — machines connected to an iPhone or iPad via USB that the user has granted security access to.
Apple says that this allows individuals and businesses to manage their devices, but Zdziarski has pointed out that the system offers unecrypted access to users’ online log-ins, contacts and web history and could be compromised by anyone with access to the same Wi-Fi network.
“Pairing records can be stolen a number of different ways, ranging from a shared coffee shop computer to an ex-lover whose computer you used to trust,” writes Zdziarski.