I’m not sure which is the most troubling part of this story. A company like Apple potentially being complicit with the NSA in order to install a backdoor into its products, or a company like Apple creating, marketing, and selling devices and services that they aren’t aware have surveillance back doors. After the latest info on security leaks that said Apple’s industry leading iPhones had a back door allowing the NSA to essentially track any communication or data exchange on those devices Apple has issued a strong denial. This latest story was featured in a Der Spiegel report about TAO, the NSA’s toolbox and methods that it uses to gather data. In that report it was stated that a program called DROPOUTJEEP allowed the NSA to monitor any iPhone through a backdoor. The article left it open to interpretation as to whether Apple had been complicit with this kind of monitoring by allowing the backdoor to exist.
Of course Apple is going to issue a denial. It has no recourse but to do so. Apple reached out to TechCrunch and other sources to deliver that denial and here is the quote:
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.
As mentioned in this story earlier today, these issues affect consumers, companies that create and market to those consumers, and most importantly the trust we all need to surrender to in order to make these systems work. Corporations can’t afford to be constantly answering consumer questions bred out of mistrust. The real story will be to see how companies like Apple respond in the long term versus immediate pro-forma responses and now consumers respond going forward.
Of course there is another nagging question out there as well. How will we really know if these issues have been corrected? These questions will be asked of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others in the months and years ahead.