German newspaper Der Spiegel launched a media frenzy last week with the provocative story that the NSA can (and probably has) compromise the iPhone in a way that gives them complete “ownership” of the device for the purposes of surveillance. Fueled by documents released by infamous informant Edward Snowden, the article details a specific program called “Dropout Jeep” that could completely compromise an iPhone…in 2007.
What this means for you:
Today, in the internet economy, media outlets have priorities that aren’t always compatible: keep their audiences informed, and get as many eyeballs/clicks/likes as possible. As you can imagine, stories about iPhones and NSA spying are hot commodities right now, so when the two subjects align, how can you not lead with such an explosive story?
Several articles spurred by the Der Spiegel piece speculated that Apple may have been working with the NSA all along. Most suggested that the NSA can and has owned even current gen iPhones. Apple, of course, has denied any collaboration with the spy agency. The NSA itself continues to remain silent on stories like this. But, as mentioned above, the Dropout Jeep program was active in 2007, and required the hacker to have physical access to the device. As many of you have heard me say before, if someone has physical access to your device, compromising the device (regardless of manufacturer or type) becomes much more straightforward. The Snowden document did indicate that the NSA was working on future versions of the spyware that wouldn’t require physical access to the device, but for the moment, there is no proof that they can “own” modern iPhones.
But there’s no proof that they can’t, either.