Wik­iLeaks re­veals how CIA hacks iPhones, MacBooks

New Straits Times - - World -

WASHINGTON: The Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency is able to per­ma­nently in­fect an Ap­ple Mac com­puter so that even re­in­stalling the op­er­at­ing sys­tem will not erase the bug, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments pub­lished on Thurs­day by Wik­iLeaks.

In its sec­ond re­lease al­legedly from CIA’s arse­nal of hack­ing tools, Wik­iLeaks said that it ap­peared that the United States spy agency had been able, since 2008, to in­sert bugs onto new and un­used iPhones by in­ter­ven­ing in Ap­ple’s sup­ply and dis­tri­bu­tion net­work.

The re­lease fol­lows the ini­tial pub­li­ca­tion on March 9 by the anti-se­crecy group of thou­sands of pages of in­struc­tions and code from what it called the en­tire CIA arse­nal of hack­ing tools.

The doc­u­ments are be­lieved to be gen­uine al­though CIA has not ac­knowl­edged this.

The pub­li­ca­tion of the doc­u­ments sparked a US coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion into how the doc­u­ments leaked out from CIA and made their way to Wik­iLeaks, with some peo­ple blam­ing the agency’s use of pri­vate sub­con­trac­tors as a likely source.

The new­est doc­u­ments fo­cus on how CIA tar­gets Ap­ple’s pop­u­lar per­sonal elec­tron­ics to spy on users.

They show the CIA de­vel­oped a tool in 2012 called “Sonic Screw­driver” that could hi­jack an Ap­ple com­puter’s pass­word-pro­tected boot process from pe­riph­eral de­vices like adapters and USB drives.

By do­ing so, they can in­ject a un­de­tectable bug deep into the com­puter ’s es­sen­tial firmware that will not be erased even when the com­puter is re­for­mat­ted.

The man­ual for the “NightSkies” bug shows that CIA de­vel­oped it in 2008 to be im­planted phys­i­cally in new iPhones.

“While CIA as­sets are some­times used to phys­i­cally in­fect sys­tems in the cus­tody of a tar­get, it is likely that many CIA phys­i­cal ac­cess at­tacks have in­fected the tar­geted or­gan­i­sa­tion’s sup­ply chain, in­clud­ing by in­ter­dict­ing mail or­ders and other ship­ments,” Wik­iLeaks said.

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