NSA exploits a “feature” in iPhone

The NSA is particularly pleased with the security features in Apple’s iPhone which allows it to spy on people when they think it is switched off.

Edward Snowden said that the NSA can get into an iPhone, turn it on remotely if it’s off and can they turn on apps?

The Tame Apple Press dismissed the claim as “magical” – after all the iPhone was designed by Steve Jobs and is totally unhackable and completely secure. The fact that it usually takes experts less than a minute to break into one is neither here nor there.

A group of particularly cunning iPhone hackers say it’s possible. All the spooks have to do is trick you into installing malware before you shut down your phone. This software could make the phone look like it’s shutting down—complete with a fake “slide to power off” screen.

However instead of powering down, it enters a low-power mode that leaves its baseband chip which controls communication with the carrier on.

The NSA could actually install the software before you actually bought the phone. Already we have seen the NSA intercepting routers from Cisco and installing backdoors. It would be a doddle for spooks to show up at an Apple store and insist on their own software being installed before you buy your phone.

However it is possible you can completely turn off your iPhone so no one can use it to spy on you. Surprisingly it does not involve a hammer and buying a proper phone.

What you do is turn off their iPhones by putting them into device firmware upgrade (DFU) mode, a kind of “panic” state designed to let the phone reinstall its firmware or recover from repeated operating system crashes.

In DFU mode, says McDonald, all elements of the phone are entirely shut down except its USB port, which is designed to wait for a signal from iTunes to install new firmware.

It seems a bit of an arse to us. It is probably easier to hit it with a hammer and buy a proper phone.