Leaked Documents Suggest CIA Work on Hacked Version of Xcode, OS X Installer Exploit

xcodelogoUnited States Central Intelligence Agency researchers have been working for years to crack the security of Apple's iPhone and iPad, and may have done so through the creation of a modified version of Xcode, Apple's software development tool designed for developers.

According to secret documents obtained by The Intercept, at a 2012 "Jamboree" that focused on security flaws found in various electronics, CIA researchers outlined both a hacked version of Xcode and a modified OS X updater that could be used to install malicious software like keyloggers.

The modified version of Xcode, the researchers claimed, could enable spies to steal passwords and grab messages on infected devices. Researchers also claimed the modified Xcode could "force all iOS applications to send embedded data to a listening post." It remains unclear how intelligence agencies would get developers to use the poisoned version of Xcode.

The malicious version of Xcode could potentially be used to extract private data from devices that installed apps built by the hacked Xcode. Some of the things researchers said could be done with Xcode included installing "remote backdoors" in Mac apps, embedding an app developer's private key into iOS applications (letting the government masquerade as the targeted developer), forcing iOS apps to send data from an iPhone or iPad to a "listening post," and disabling core security features on iOS devices.

None of the documents detail how the Xcode and OS X installer exploits have been used by the CIA, and they also don't state whether the efforts have been successful, but as noted by The Intercept, they suggest that the government's efforts to crack the security technology companies employ is a continually ongoing effort.

Apple and the U.S. government have been at odds over privacy and security issues in recent years. A 2013 document leak suggested that Apple and other tech companies were working with the government on a secret project called PRISM, which allegedly provided the government with direct access to customer data on company servers.

Apple and multiple other technology companies like Google vehemently denied their participation in such a program and have since gone to great lengths to ensure the public that they're not involved in the government's spying attempts. Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and other companies banded together to ask for greater surveillance transparency and the ability to share more info on government data requests with consumers, which was ultimately successful.

Apple launched a privacy site in September of 2014 outlining the privacy features of its products and services and offering detailed information on government information requests. Across 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook began putting a heavy emphasis on the importance of privacy, and with iOS 8, Apple significantly increased the encryption protection on iOS devices. Prior to iOS 8, Apple had the ability to access data on iOS devices with a company-held encryption key, and now, that no longer exists. Google has made similar changes.

The FBI has strongly opposed Apple's efforts to increase the security of its iOS devices, with FBI Director James Comey insisting that government access to electronic devices is necessary in some cases. Apple has reportedly been in talks with FBI officials over its security changes, but Apple CEO Tim Cook has maintained Apple's commitment to privacy and security.

At the White House Cyber Security Summit in February, Cook said customer trust means everything to Apple. "When it comes to the rights of customers and citizens, we're all talking about the same people," he said. "People have entrusted us with their most personal and precious information and we owe them nothing less than the best protections we can possibly provide by harnessing the technology at our disposal."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: Xcode, FBI, CIA

Top Rated Comments

sputnikv Avatar
78 months ago
this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone at this point. that in itself should be alarming
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DiabBarca Avatar
78 months ago
I wish people would stop being so suspicious of agencies like the CIA. These hard working men and women are there to protect us all. From the terrorists.

We live in a safer and more secure world, thanks to the CIA!


To protect us all?!
From the terrorists?!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Northwoods
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bushido Avatar
78 months ago
I wish people would stop being so suspicious of agencies like the CIA. These hard working men and women are there to protect us all. From the terrorists.

We all live in a safer and more secure world, thanks to the CIA!

i love your sarcasm
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
aaronvan Avatar
78 months ago
NSA should be angry about CIA encroaching on their turf.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Four oF NINE Avatar
78 months ago
I wish people would stop being so suspicious of agencies like the CIA. These hard working men and women are there to protect us all. From the terrorists.

We all live in a safer and more secure world, thanks to the CIA!

You're kidding, right?
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gusapple Avatar
78 months ago
So many things wrong with this.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iphone 6 in hand

Apple Faces Another iPhone Lawsuit Over 'Programmed Obsolescence'

Monday March 1, 2021 6:44 am PST by
Apple faces a new class-action lawsuit that accuses it of deliberately releasing iOS updates that slowly reduce the performance of an iPhone, forcing customers to upgrade their devices. The lawsuit comes from the Portuguese Consumer Protection Agency, Deco Proteste (via Marketeer), which in a statement says that it will proceed with a case against the Cupertino tech giant because it...
PIA23764 RoverNamePlateonMars web

NASA Mars Perseverance Rover Uses Same PowerPC Chipset Found in 1998 G3 iMac

Tuesday March 2, 2021 3:21 am PST by
NASA's Perseverance rover, which recently made history landing on the surface of Mars, is powered by the same processor used in an iMac more than 23 years old. Image Credit: NASA As reported by NewScientist (via Gizmodo), the rover includes the PowerPC 750 processor, the same chip used in the G3 iMac in 1998. The main chipset is the same; however, there are differences between the...
magsafe charging brick feature

Prosser: iPhone 12 MagSafe Battery Pack to Feature Reverse Charging

Monday March 1, 2021 1:18 pm PST by
Apple is working on MagSafe-compatible battery packs that will be compatible with the iPhone 12 models, and leaker Jon Prosser today said on the Genius Bar podcast that one version of the battery pack will feature "reverse charging." According to Prosser, Apple is working on two versions of the battery packs, one that's a standard version and one that's a premium version with reverse...
rosetta 2

Rosetta May Be Removed From M1 Macs in Some Regions on macOS 11.3

Tuesday March 2, 2021 5:20 pm PST by
Installing the upcoming macOS 11.3 software update on an M1 Mac may result in Rosetta 2 being removed in one or more regions around the world. In the third beta of macOS 11.3 seeded to developers for testing today, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser uncovered new strings in the beta's code indicating that "Rosetta will be removed upon installing this update." Another new string reads "Rosetta ...
iphone 12 pro display video

iPhone 13 to Include 1TB Storage Option and LiDAR Across the Board, Says Wedbush Analyst

Monday March 1, 2021 4:00 am PST by
Apple's forthcoming iPhone 13 could include a 1TB storage option for some models and LiDAR Scanners across the entire lineup, according to a report from Wedbush analysts. In a new note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said that initial Asian supply chain checks gave the firm "increased confidence" that Apple's 5G-driven product cycle would extend well into 2022,...
Apple Prefer Lightning Over USB C Feature

iPhone Sticking With Lightning Port Over USB-C for 'Foreseeable Future'

Tuesday March 2, 2021 9:32 am PST by
Apple will retain the Lightning connector on the iPhone for the "foreseeable future," with no intention of switching to USB-C, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In spite of much of the industry moving toward USB-C, Apple will not be using it to replace the Lightning connector on the iPhone 13, or indeed on any iPhone model for the time being. In a note seen by MacRumors yesterday,...
iphone 12 120hz thumbnail feature

Kuo: iPhone 13 Lineup to Feature Smaller Notch and Larger Batteries, 120Hz Display for Pro Models, and More

Monday March 1, 2021 7:50 am PST by
iPhone 13 models will all feature a smaller notch, while the two Pro models will be equipped with low-power LTPO display technology for a 120Hz refresh rate, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Several other sources have previously claimed that some iPhone 13 models will support a 120Hz refresh...
Screen Shot 2021 03 03 at 11

MagSafe Charging Port for iPhone Appears in Apple Patent

Wednesday March 3, 2021 1:30 am PST by
In a newly granted patent, Apple envisions a type of connectivity port using an iteration of its magnetic MagSafe charger to charge an iPhone, potentially paving the way for a future without Lightning. Submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday (via Patently Apple), the patent outlines a three-pinned MagSafe charger, similar to the ones found in older MacBook...
apple transfer google photos 1

Apple Launches Service for Transferring iCloud Photos and Videos to Google Photos

Wednesday March 3, 2021 12:04 pm PST by
Apple this week introduced a new service that's designed to make it quick and easy for iCloud users to transfer their stored photos and videos to Google Photos. As outlined in an Apple support document, you can go to Apple's privacy website and sign in to see the "Transfer a copy of your data" option. If you select this and go through all the steps, Apple will transfer your iCloud photos and ...
galaxy s21 iphone 12 pro max front feature2

Kuo: Some 2022 iPhones to Abandon Notch in Favor of 'Punch-Hole' Display

Monday March 1, 2021 8:05 am PST by
At least some 2022 iPhone models will abandon the notch and switch to a "punch-hole display design" instead, similar to Samsung's recent high-end Galaxy smartphones, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Kuo said the hole-punch display design will be adopted by high-end 2022 iPhones at a minimum, and if production yields are good enough, all 2022 iPhone...