Apple signs letter protesting U.K. anti-encryption proposal

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iMessages in iCloud is coming in iOS 11.3.
Apple has long fought on the side of privacy.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple has joined Google, WhatsApp and 44 other signatories in penning an open letter to the U.K.’s cybersecurity agency GCHQ. The open letter asks the agency to abandon plans for the so-called “ghost protocol.”

This would force encrypted message services to allow eavesdropping by silently adding “a law enforcement participant to a group chat or call.” In essence, it would make it possible to inject hidden participants into secure messaging services.

U.K. spy agency wants to listen in on encrypted chats

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iMessages in iCloud is coming in iOS 11.3.
Apple has been a strong proponent of encryption.
Photo: Cult of Mac

The U.K. government has an idea for getting around the thorny issue of tech companies creating a backdoor for encrypted services: just let government agents be able to listen in on encrypted communications.

That’s the so-called “ghost proposal” being put forward by officials from Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a close surveillance partner of the U.S. National Security Agency. The proposal would make it possible to inject hidden participants into secure messaging services.

WikiLeaks: CIA lost control of its iPhone hacking arsenal

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Wikileaks'
Wikileaks' "Vault 7" data dump allegedly reveals CIA hacking tools used to compromise iPhones, Android phones and other devices.
Image: Gordon Johnson/Pixabay

The Central Intelligence Agency has been using malware to spy on iPhone and Android users, according to the largest-ever publication of confidential documents from WikiLeaks — and the spy tools are now in the hands of others.

As part of a covert hacking program, the CIA created a “malware arsenal” and dozens of “zero day exploits” to infiltrate smartphones, tablets and even smart TVs to extract data and turn them into covert microphones.

But the agency recently lost controls of these tools. Those who have obtained them now have “the entire hacking capacity of the CIA” at their disposal, according to WikiLeaks.

iSpy: Snowden leak shows how the UK tracked iPhone users

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iPhone_UDID
UDID identifiers could be used to link iPhones to their users. Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple has long been outspoken about the measures it goes to to keep your iPhone secure, but new documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden demonstrate how the British spy agency GCHQ was able to carry out “realtime tracking of target iPhones” — by compromising users’ computers.

Rather than directly targeting the iPhones, GCHQ agents focused their attack on the computers with which the iPhones were synchronised, enabling them to access much of the data stored on the handset. The method took advantage of flaws in Apple’s UDID (unique device identifier) system, which issued a unique code for every iPhone, linking it with its owner.

The iPhone tracking report was handed over by Snowden to a group of nine journalists — including Laura Poitras, the filmmaker behind the acclaimed documentary Citizenfour.