Jacob Appelbaum’s extraordinarily disingenuous claims about NSA penetration of Apple iPhones

“Jacob Appelbaum has yet another revelation from the Edward Snowden trove of documents: that the NSA has a backdoor into all of Apple’s iPhones,” Tim Worstall writes for Forbes. And I have no doubt at all that the NSA does indeed have the capability to crack an iPhone if it so wishes. But it’s what Appelbaum then goes on to say that is what I would call misinformation. At the very least it’s a disingenuous suggestion.”

Worstall writes, “The problem with the larger claim that Appelbaum is making is that it’s not actually backed up by the information in Snowden’s documents. Which includes this very important point: ‘According to leaked documents, the NSA claims a 100 percent success rate when it comes to implanting iOS devices with spyware. The documents suggest that the NSA needs physical access to a device to install the spyware…’ You can hack anything at all if you’ve got physical access to the hardware that you want to hack.”

“This latest from Appelbaum… make[s] me much less willing to trust his statements on this or any other matter,” Worstall writes. “He knows, as a security expert, that there are no secure systems if those who desire access gain physical access to the hardware. Yet even though he knows this point he goes on to claim a general backdoor and casts all sorts of aspersions about the motives that led to this. That’s just not credible, knowing what he already does about that physical access requirement. And those two things together make Appelbaum not credible to me I’m afraid.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Visit the Apple-backed reformgovernmentsurveillance.com today.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Arline M.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Apple: We’ve never worked with U.S. NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone – December 31, 2013
Ex-NSA chief calls for Obama to reject commission’s recommendations to rein in NSA surveillance – December 30, 2013
How the U.S. NSA remotely bugs your Apple iPhone – December 30, 2013
Report: U.S. NSA intercepts computers during shipping to install surveillance malware – December 30, 2013
U.S. NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking – December 11, 2013
Apple, Google, others call for government surveillance reform – December 9, 2013
U.S. NSA secretly infiltrated Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say – October 30, 2013
Obama administration decides NSA spying is ‘essential,’ but oversight of NSA is not – October 8, 2013
Apple’s iPhone 5s with Touch ID seen as protection against U.S. NSA – September 16, 2013
German government: Windows 8 contains U.S. NSA snooping back doors; too dangerous to use – August 23, 2013
Report: NSA can see 75% of U.S. Web traffic, can snare emails – August 21, 2013
NSA can read email, online chats, track Web browsing without warrant, documents leaked by Edward Snowden show – July 31, 2013
Momentum builds against U.S. government surveillance – July 29, 2013
U.S. House rejects effort to curb NSA surveillance powers, 205-217 – July 24, 2013
Obama administration scrambles to shut down imminent U.S. House vote to defund NSA spying – July 24, 2013
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013
Apple, Google, dozens of others push Obama administration to disclose U.S. surveillance requests – July 19, 2013
Secret court agrees to allow Yahoo to reveal its fight against U.S. government PRISM requests – July 16, 2013
How Microsoft handed U.S. NSA, FBI, CIA access to users’ encrypted video, audio, and text communications – July 11, 2013
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Yahoo: Since December 2012, we have received up to 13,000 U.S. gov’t requests for customer data – June 18, 2013
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Nine companies, including Apple, tied to PRISM, Obama to be smacked with class-action lawsuit – June 12, 2013
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Report: Intelligence program gives U.S. government direct access to customer data on Apple servers; Apple denies – June 6, 2013


  1. I think that it is sad that so called “analysts” can make up vile, and disgusting lies about Apple, all just to lower their stock prices. Apple is one of the few companies to not be part of the NSA’s spying program, and for that, people lie about it. Sickening.

      1. Yes strange that those most prolific and quick to claim infiltration, complicity and lies on the part of others are very often at the forefront of those very acts of misinformation themselves for their own or others nefarious motives.

    1. Eric the Mole has certainly a propaganda in doing dirty dishonest works behind the scene… Oh ya, since quite some years ago, and penetrating into the press industry (The Economist for example) and the Obama government these kinds of political power tools.

  2. I am amazed that with every one of these NSA stories, the source is a single individual who provides a press outlet with “NSA documents” that look like they were produced with Microsoft Paint. The piss-poor level of journalistic rigor in the coverage of this issue…actually, it’s pretty much what I’d expect from the shitshows that pass for journalistic output these days.

    1. …what is “piss-poor level of journalist rigor” is no American media originally published the Snowden NSA leaks. The UK’s Guardian did. Thanks, limeys…that’s two we owe you after your Parliament refused to back The Messiah’s foray into WWIII with his “Save Syria” horseshit.

      1. It seems to me that you are ignorant about history. As bad as NYC’s public schools were in the 1980s, we still had a well rounded education. We actually had some extra help from the Canadians, so it would be best to give them thanks once in a while. Not only that, but the Battle of Brisbane was just as awkward as the War of 1812…but thankfully we are still friends with both Canada and Austrailia.

        1. You are very very deluded if you think that the Anustralians consider yanks to be friends. Not after meeting so many of them so often wanting to recreate the Battle of Brisbane. That is a plight of hatred on the planet and happily they are being eradicated, one Ho Ho Ho Holden at a time.

          Thank you Santa.

      2. You’re nuts. All of this stuff has been going on since 2003 with your beloved president Bush. Ever hear of the “Patriot Act”? Yeah…Nice try at rewriting history though. A little bit of revisionism never hurt anyone…

        1. did you two idiots even read what I typed? I said ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED. I didn’t fscking say anything about the NYC school system or when the Patriot Act first allowed these abuses to occur. Goddamn, stupid motherfsckers.

          1. How can I read your BS clearly when all you do is spout obscenities? Besides, you act so naive about this. Thanks for giving me information that I read on WikiLeaks last year.

            1. Pom’s love the “Limey” nickname, why wouldn’t they, its has a good history … However the Cockney rhyming slang for Americans is “Septics”.

  3. Appelbaum discusses the physical access requirement. He discusses how the NSA or other field teams intercept shipments that are destined to certain targets. They then implant their spyware en route and send the phone on its merry way to the unsuspecting target.

    Appelbaum makes clear that his biggest concern is that the NSA either has zero-day exploits that they are not sharing with Apple or the NSA was given these exploits from a complicit Apple. If we trust Apple’s statement released today, the NSA is holding back zero-day vulnerabilities at the expense of American companies.

  4. Appelbaum was doing his job and asking a question as to how NSA was so confident they could successfully hack iPhones 100% of the time. Good question, no answer yet. I love Apple, but I’ll rather wait for the answer than shoot the messenger.

  5. If Applebaum is correct (either regarding physical access or remote access), or even close to correct, then just how bad is Android’s security that he doesn’t even mention it? Considering the NSA could simply download Android and probe it endlessly for vulnerabilities (should take all of about 5 minutes, 4 of which are the download), there’s no way an Android phone is secure in any way, shape or form.

  6. He releases some great information on what is going on, but then to stretch information to make it grander than it is, sadly, it discredits him completely. And that throws all his research out the door.

    Applebaum and others had better be much more judicious in relaying information, and not push this “over the top” just for the sake of pushing a point. If they continue this path they will begin to look like Al Gore claiming 20ft rising sea levels in 20 years (nearly 15 years in now), and yet he purchases a home at sea level in Florida…

    The Point: Stretching isn’t necessary and simply discredits everything being said.

  7. I have a problem with Reform Government Surveillance. Most of the undersigned companies are stalking your every online move all for profit and most of it without your consent. They think it is OK for them to stalk your every online move for profit- but not the government.

    BTW-many of them are SELLING the stalking data they collect to various levels of government. Their objections have note to do with business than a belief in civil liberties.

    1. Darwin, they’re ‘stalking’ you while you’re rabbiting on about crap on here. Do yourself, and the rest of us, a favour, and fuck off somewhere that has zero Internet access, then we’ll all be so much happier.

  8. Appelbaum saw his audience were yawning and bored. He then decided to wake them up by talking absolute bullshit about Apple.
    He also knew the Apple hating press would make him world famous by simply regurgitating the crap with zero fact checking.

    1. Lets see … security researcher uses 2008 document claiming 100% success hacking iPhones with close access and implies the NSA can still easily hack the iPhones of today (no proof)
      Then speculates that either the NSA has lots of vulnerabilities up it sleeves (Apple makes shitty software) or the NSA has a backdoor built in to iOS.
      Ignores the fact that no OS is secure (which he knows) and the OS makers constantly have to update the OS vulnerabilities.
      Makes a huge leap of logic that there must be an inbuilt backdoor. (no proof)
      Then uses this speculation to further speculate that Apple would have had to put the backdoor there. (no proof)

      Security researcher then challenges Apple to clarify the situation.

      Apple releases statement that they have never worked with the NSA on any backdoor for any product.

      The tech press regurgitate this story, no proof, only speculation based on speculation based on an old out of date document.

      Read the comments on these stories. Apple are now being accused of lying. Idiots are saying they will no longer buy iOS devices. This rampant speculation if it gains ground could affect sales.

      Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

      Yet this guy’s tin foil hat opinions are being taken as fact.
      The question is, why are you not questioning this guys credibility and motives.

      He obviously knows his stuff, but he was unknown before this.
      He knew that if he made Apple the subject of NSA hacking, that he would gain a lot of notoriety.

      I don’t live in the US, and am no fan of the NSA.
      But some of the vitriol, paranoia and fear of the NSA is just plain irrational.

      The Apple hating press is feeding this paranoia, a lll to discredit Apple.

  9. We already know that the NSA has to go directly to Apple to ask for decryption of individual iPhones. There was a very long discussion of this here at MDN in the spring of 2013.

    Make stuff up. Call it ‘TRUTH!’ Screw everyone up. Gee, thanks.

  10. Due to the provisions of the Patriot Act, there are reasonable conclusions we can draw about the NSA and Apple.
    1) Can the NSA force Apple to build a backdoor into it’s operating systems? Yes.
    2) Can the NSA force Apple to not disclose this information to the public? Yes.
    3) Is lying to the citizens of the USA and Congress a standard operating procedure for the NSA? Yes.
    Because of these facts, the NSA cannot be trusted. We’ve seen the Director of the NSA (Keith Alexander) testify before Congress and LIE UNDER OATH. Which he got away with and faced no consequences from either political party. The entire agency needs to be discontinued.

    And if it weren’t for Snowden, we would know nothing of this.

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