The NSA has a perfect record when hacking into Apple iPhones and planting spyware to intercept communications, according to a troubling new report on Tuesday.
Leaked internal documents, published by German magazine Der Spiegel, have revealed a program called DROPOUTJEEP, which intercepts voicemails, track messages and remotely pull files from the device.
The spyware also provides details from the device's contact list, can remotely activate the microphone and camera and can track the smartphone's location using cell tower data.
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According to the report, first reported in the US by The Daily Dot, the bug must be physically implanted, but a remotely-installed version is apparently on the way.
That means the NSA could be rerouting iPhone shipments to install the spyware manually (something it is believed to have done with other electronic devices) before sending them on to the unsuspecting user.
Apple: We know nothing
Presenting the findings at the Chaos Communication Conference in Hamburg, security researcher Jacob Appelbaum questioned the NSA's methods and raised suspicions that Apple, may have been in on it.
He said: "Either [the NSA] have a huge collection of exploits that work against Apple products, meaning they are hoarding information about critical systems that American companies produce, and sabotaging them, or Apple sabotaged it themselves."
"Do you think Apple helped them with that? I hope Apple will clarify that," he added.
For its part Apple released a statement denying all knowledge of the program and said it is taking steps to ensure customers from unsolicited personal intrusion.
The company wrote: "Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone. Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products. We care deeply about our customers' privacy and security. Our team is continuously working to make our products even more secure, and we make it easy for customers to keep their software up to date with the latest advancements. Whenever we hear about attempts to undermine Apple's industry-leading security, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate steps to protect our customers. We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who's behind them."
Meanwhile, you can view Appelbaum's presentation in the video clip below.
As 2013 comes to a close it appears the revelations, which dominated the headlines for much of the year, aren't going anywhere. It seems this story could get a lot worse before it gets any better.