The U.S. NSA can still listen to your iPhone’s microphone when off; here’s the trick to beat it

“The NSA could technically listen in to the microphone of an iPhone even if it switched off, experts have revealed,” Mark Prigg reports for The Daily Mail. “”

“The claim was first made by Edward Snowden during an interview with Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News… Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News, holding his iPhone aloft during last Wednesday’s interview, asked, ‘What can the NSA do with this device if they want to get into my life? Can anyone turn it on remotely if it’s off? Can they turn on apps?’ ‘They can absolutely turn them on with the power turned off to the device,’ Snowden replied,” Prigg reports. “Today, experts confirmed the technique was technically possibly – and revealed a way to sidestep it.”

Prigg reports, “To ensure the phone is completely inoperable, it must be put into a sepcial DFU mode normal used to upgrade its software. To enter DFU mode: Plug your iPhone in any power outlet or USB port; Hold the power button; After three seconds hold the home button as well; Keep both pressed for 10 seconds; Release the power button while continuing to hold the home button for another ten to fifteen seconds while the phone enters DFU mode.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
How the NSA tapped AT&T’s network – May 23, 2014
U.S. House passes bill to curb NSA data collection programs – May 23, 2014
Apple, others to defy U.S. government authorities, notify customers of secret data demands – May 1, 2014
US NSA used Facebook to hack into computers – March 12, 2014
Rand Paul: ‘What you do on your cellphone is none of their damned business!’ – March 8, 2014
U.S. NSA watching, tracking phone users with Google Maps – January 28, 2014
Apple issues update on U.S. NSA and law enforcement orders – January 27, 2014
Obama’s NSA proposals fall far short of real change – January 17, 2014
U.S. NSA devises radio pathway into computers to conduct surveillance, launch cyberattacks – January 15, 2014
The NSA, Apple’s iPhone and a whole lot of bad reporting – January 8, 2014
U.S. NSA seeks to build quantum computer to crack most types of encryption – January 3, 2014
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

77 Comments

  1. As long as the phone has power, the NSA certainly has ways of activating the mic and camera and with the 5s touchid, thinking otherwise is foolish, and thanks to Apple’s genius move of a non removable battery the assumption should be that the phone is always watching and listening.

    1. One annoying other option: Run down your iPhone’s battery until the device shuts itself off.

      And yet, thanks to the NSA, we paranoiacally wonder even then. Thanks NSA for F*King up everything worth having. A*holes.

    2. Joe? Did you even bother to read the article? The article was quite specific. For the NSA to accomplish this on an iPhone, they would have had to have get the ability to access your phone:

      “Security consultant Robert David Graham says the technique is called an implant.

      ‘An ‘implant’ is when the NSA intercepts your phone and installs hardware or software on i,’ he blogged.

      ‘Usually this is because they intercepted a shipment, snuck into your hotel room, or ran a remote exploit (via the Internet or via the baseband).

      ‘Yes, an implant gives the NSA full control over your phone — but it’s difficult getting the implant on your phone in the first place.”

      For an iPhone, this requires they would have to have physically intercepted the specific iPhone they wish to eavesdrop upon BEFORE they can turn on the microphone. Not such an easy task as you make it out to be. On an Android device, much easier. Then they can get it on with software.

  2. If the NSA was only doing this to bone fide bad guys, I’d live with it. But seeing as the NSA doesn’t give a rats’ who they surveil, for no constitutional reason whatsoever, F*K the NSA. #MyStupidGovernment in action.

        1. My interpretation of 84’s comment: “The first rule of surveillance club is to identify and silence anyone who speaks against surveillance club.”

          1. Oh brilliant. You know who that inspires me to evoke. But I will resist.

            Summary Judgement:

            The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution:
            “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

            Love it or LEAVE please.

            1. Derek, be cool. I agree with everything you say. Unfortunately the people who run this country do not. And the Constitution that you quote, that is a quaint document that is used like Charmin by the people running this country.

            2. I would wish that you are protected by that Amendment as you think you are. However, the NSA is already ignoring it, as you so succinctly put it in the post that started this nested thread. They have ignored the Amendment to surveil any and all. What makes you think that someone driving the black Suburbans who come to question you, arrest you for thought crimes, or whatever they deem to arrest you for, would bother with any of the other Amendments in the Bill of Rights? Harry Reid has just introduced a Bill before the Senate to abrogate the 1st Amendment when someone wants to speak out on elections who just happens not to be licensed by the government to do so. The 1st Amendment was created to protect political free speech. . . yet Harry Reid wants to abridge political free speech HE doesn’t like. . . speech that threatens incumbents.

            3. Um huh. You think I don’t have my eyes on the reality of the situation? If anything, my point is to GLARE the light of what should be on the scumbags who perpetrate what is.

              As for ‘black suburbans’, I think there’s a semantic failure going on. You’re speaking from a car culture I don’t follow. I now comprehend the term as intended. I simply call them ‘The G-Men’ or ‘The Men In Black’ or ‘The Secret, Secret Service’, etc. I know full well what the PoliTards will do when they want to put on a show of force and stupidity. I’ve been a court observer for one of the Bush League’s show trials of a would-be terrorist, a total railroading affair that was a total embarrassment to their fake ‘we’re prosecuting terrorists, look and see’ dumb show.

              To my great surprise and joy, there are hundreds or thousands of people working in the military and government security who see this CRIME as what it is: CRIME. They like folks like me who put the cards on the table AND turn them over for all to see. I enjoy being part of the mass of Americans who LIKE the point of there being a USA, versus the bullshit we have had going on since 2000, AND earlier.

              If what you state about Harry Reid is true, that’s treasonous. I watched a video today of Nancy Pelosi lying her girdled backside off to high school children asking here why she has consistently supported NSA surveillance of innocent US citizens. The hag. And don’t doubt I can pull even more finger pointing and the utter scum on the Neo-Con-Job side of the aisle.

              If the ship is going to go down, I’m going to be shouting that fact to the hills. I love it when others join in. Pretending we have to give into this bullshit, or pretending everythings all happy smiley shiny, is for idiots. That I am not ever going to be.

              And further such ranting… Way past my bedtime.

            4. When the time comes that we must abandon our cottages and head for the hills, we at least will do so together, as a new tribe allied against the forces of failed imagination and vacant morals

            5. And those living in the hills are already arming themselves for our invasion. I’ve been dreaming about that coming phenomenon since I was 14, like a recurring nightmare. “The Survivalists” is what they call themselves these days. Not pretty.

              But in the aftermath, there will be the new tribes (plural) that will strive on while the FAIL empires of the Middle East and Asia attempt to rule the unruly and demoralized masses by diverting their attention with an inter-empire war, the actual war to end all wars, and not in a good way.

              Or so I also dream, that one since I was 13. Being imaginative and/or insightful can be a big pain.

            6. Tell you what. I’ll take the tar franchise and you can have the feather franchise. . . We can be partners in making rails! A pox on both houses is what I see. . . But frankly, the D side is worse than the R side, but lately it’s getting harder to see the difference.

            7. I’m with you! But where do we get a caldron big enough to boil up all that tar? Oh I know. We’ll lop off the dome of the Congress building and flip it upside down on the Mall.

              Now everyone go gather lots of kindling and firewood! We’ve got some cooking to do.

    1. The problem is: the NSA defines who the “bona fide” bad guys are, or might be some day. Sadly, their definition and solution seems to be all inclusive – let’s spy on everyone just in case.

      1. The US Constitution lays out a very simple and direct method called ‘probable cause’.

        But Noooo. Let’s contort reality then complain about people who see reality, as opposed to their corruption, as valid. Metadata isn’t private data! No! We say so! It must be true!

        Then horrors like Diane Feinstein cover the NSA’s bullshit with frosting and cherries. But it’s still bullshit. It’s still treasonous crime from We The People’s government. I personally want impeachments all ’round.

    1. Turn on iRadio and place your iPhone inside of an empty mayonnaise jar. Make sure the iPhone’s display is pointing toward your side, so that neither camera faces you. 

    2. What Snowden suggests and what you’re suggesting makes your iPhone into a very expensive paperweight, useless for anything it was designed to do.

      If they really want to listen to me, they’ll get bored with our constant talk about visiting colleges and the upcoming high school football season for my two sons. Or hearing sports radio playing, or sounds from Angry Birds Star Wars II, or typing on my keyboard. That’s how you get them to stop listening — bore them to death.

  3. What about airplane mode? If it’s antenna and broadcasting functions are off, it shouldn’t be accessible. A Faraday case or bag should also protect you when you’re not using the device.

  4. I would point out that this article appeared in the Daily Mail, which is one of the least trustworthy sources of news in the UK and also shows a consistently hostile attitude towards Apple.

    Reading the article, it seems to be very vague about whether there is any actual threat to your iPhone, unless government agents have had physical access to it in order to tamper with it.

    You can best apply Betteridge’s law of headlines to this article.

    1. Thank you for pointing that out to everyone. This story is nothing more than click bait. And too many otherwise rational people here are ready to don foil hats and fall for it.

      Consider: 1) Snowden was talking about events and capabilities from five plus years ago. 2) iOS has become much more secure in that time. 3) What are the credentials of these “reliable sources” this newspaper (rag) quoting?

  5. Really? Does this pass everyone’s smell test? Put it this way: Airplane mode turns off all radios. So, too, does powering off the device. So how are they supposed to get a signal to it?

    1. The trick is that they’ve hacked your phone earlier so that when you power it off a rogue app launched that only *pretends* to shut it off! and in reality it’s still on and listening.

      In other words, this isn’t a threat to real people.

      1. In which case the NSA would need physical access to your iPhone after every update to iOS since the update process wipes out the old version before being able to load the new one. The NSA would be better off hacking iTunes.app so that after updating you iOS device it then adds their little patch.

    2. You really think the NSA, with all of its resources, couldn’t figure out a stealthy way to make your iPhone look like it was in airplane mode but still broadcast?

      1. That they could I don’t doubt. That all of the testing laboratories around the country/world would not uncover emissions from phones in airplane mode I do doubt. The enormity of that cover-up would eclipse the NSA efforts by an order of magnitude. In the wake of the German Chancellor finding out her conversations were monitored I have no doubt many governments took very close looks at their mobile devices and not a single one has gone public with any concerns like this. So again, either every single government curious enough to investigate found nothing, or found something. And if they did find something, they are remaining silent about it (with no whistleblowers of their own speaking out). To remain silent would suggest one of two things: 1) They’re applying pressure quietly on the US or 2) they are using their knowledge to feed the NSA false information. Globally. My smell test says it is far more likely that one individual (Snowden) either didn’t know what he was talking about (or was reporting old vulnerabilities) than it is likely that hundreds of governments are all in the dark or acting independently in concert.

  6. What I find most interesting about Edward Snowden is that conservative media has branded him a traitor for revealing the anti-constitutional practices of the NSA, but they don’t have a problem with the NSA doing these things – only that Snowden revealed them. So if you are a conservative, you’re supposed to attack whistleblowers like Snowden while simultaneously turning a blind eye to what the NSA is actually doing. Isn’t that right, botty?

    1. You are wrong. We have HUGE problems with the NSA and the people pulling its strings abrogating the civil rights of the citizens of this country. Snowden IS a traitor in how he went about his revelations of the activities. . . revealing them first to our enemies. There is no blind eye. The problem is that our checks and balances have been unbalanced by a MEDIA in this country that has become a mouthpiece for the very people who are pulling those strings of the NSA. Had there been an independent media in this country with ETHICS, an HONEST opposition party that was really willing to do in-depth investigations in camera, then Snowden would have had a true venue in which to blow his whistle legally. Corruption at the highest level has made those areas almost impossible. . . I am not certain what his proper action should have been. But do not say that we are turning a blind eye to the NSA actions.

  7. This article states that they need physical access to the device to install software or hardware. If they’re doing that, what’s to say they’ve not installed a secondary battery or something? If someone has physically modified the device it’s basically doesn’t matter what you do. It’s not quite the same as being able to remotely activate any device they want, whenever they want, sight unseen.

      1. How many people know what the inside of a phone truly looks like? It doesn’t have to be a large battery either since they wouldn’t need it to run the device at full power (no screen) and only if someone was removing the main battery as a security measure. My point is that ultimately, if physical access has been gained it’s kind of irrelevant because they can do pretty much anything.

  8. When lining the bird cage, I use up the New York Post first, then the Daily Mail, then the New York Times. Budgie doesn’t care for any of them, but they may as well serve some useful purpose.

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