Recently, WikiLeaks released a set of files that allegedly came from the CIA . They also allegedly contain details about the agency’s supposed malware and attack capabilities against Apple iPhones and Mac computers.
The documents in question were dated 2012 and earlier, and detail several possible ways the CIA would be able to (and allegedly did) “hack” these devices.
One of the main documents in question was dated November 2012 and was allegedly a manual from the CIA’s Information Operation Center.
This manual gives details on one of these “hacks” codenamed Sonic Screwdriver.
It is described as a “mechanism for executing code on peripheral devices while a Mac laptop or desktop is booting.” This mechanism would allow the CIA to modify the firmware of an Apple Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter so that the device would be forced to boot using alternative means.
What about that malware?
This device can also allegedly be used to initiate “Der Starke,” a macOS malware program installed on the computer’s EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface).
This rootkit would allow the agency’s malware to continue monitoring even after the OS is reinstalled.
WikiLeaks also alleges that a similar version of this EFI malware was installed onto newly made iPhone before they left the factory (or while in transit to the consumer).
The ability to install malware while a device is in transit may seem nearly impossible, but it would seem that this is in fact feasible.
It remains to be substantiated, but the possibility has been there since Edward Snowden suggested that the NSA engages in similar monitoring, tracking, and tampering practices.
Apple weighs in
According to Cio, Apple is adamant that all Mac-related vulnerabilities were fixed in all Mac computers released after 2013.
Apple also said the iPhone vulnerability described in the files only affected the iPhone 3G and was rectified with the release of the iPhone 3GS.
Cio also states that an Apple representative stated “We have not negotiated with Wikileaks for any information. We have given them instructions to submit any information they wish through our normal process under our standard terms. We are tireless defenders of our users’ security and privacy, but we do not condone theft or coordinate with those that threaten to harm our users.”
Apple has taken this even further by hiring several individual skilled and specializing in EFI attacks to insure that any vulnerabilities to these types of attacks are patched and prevented (or as prevented as possible).
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Apple is adamant that their devices are not vulnerable to the CIA’s exploits. What do you think?