Details of a decade-long, US government-sponsored effort to hack into Apple devices and spy on users have been unveiled today after top-secret documents were leaked.
News site The Intercept – which acts as a platform to report on the documents previously provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – claims to have seen information proving that the CIA conducted a "multi-year sustained effort to break the security of Apple's iPhones and iPads".
CIA researchers gathered annually for almost a decade at "Jamboree" events at which strategies for breaking into the devices were discussed, it claims.
"By targeting essential security keys used to encrypt data stored on Apple's devices, the researchers have sought to thwart the company's attempts to provide mobile security to hundreds of millions of Apple customers across the globe," The Intercept claims.
"Studying both physical and non-invasive techniques, US government-sponsored research has been aimed at discovering ways to decrypt and ultimately penetrate Apple's encrypted firmware. This could enable spies to plant malicious code on Apple devices and seek out potential vulnerabilities in other parts of the iPhone and iPad currently masked by encryption."
Apple was unavailable to comment when contacted by CRN and the CIA declined to comment to The Intercept.
In an open letter to customers on the Apple website, its chief executive Tim Cook said customers' trust "means everything to us".
"We believe in telling you upfront exactly what's going to happen to your personal information and asking for your permission before you share it with us," he said. "And if you change your mind later, we make it easy to stop sharing with us. Every Apple product is designed around those principles. When we do ask to use your data, it's to provide you with a better user experience.
"Our business model is very straightforward: we sell great products. We don't build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don't 'monetise' the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don't read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple."
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