May 10, 2021

Widely used surveillance software can’t access iPhone without jailbreaking

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iphone_5s_6_months_later_heroBy Leif Johnson From MacLife

Apple’s iOS has a reputation for being a more secure operating system than Google’s Android, and as the Washington Post reports, it deserves it. Earlier this week reports from surveillance firm Gamma Group leaked that discussed the capabilities of its FinSpy software, and the documents listed an crucial caveat — the software won’t work on iPhones unless the phone is jailbroken.

platformsFinSpy Mobile is marketed to law enforcement and government intelligence agencies as a way to monitor and (in come cases) gain full access to a particular user’s smartphone. Among the listed specialties are “Communication: Calls, SMS, MMS and more; Stored Data: Address Book from Phone and SIM; Surveillance Devices: Make silent Calls to remotely listen to the Microphone; and Location: Trace device and monitor locations.”

As the chart above shows, agencies can use the service to spy on phones with running Android, earlier versions of BlackBerry OS, Symbian, and Windows Mobile. The latest BlackBerry model currently isn’t supported, and Windows Phone isn’t supported “yet.” But only the iPhone has a disclaimer on the platform listing itself: “Untethered jailbreak required.”

This is wonderful news for us, the Post article notes, but it also expressed wonder that Google’s Android has emerged as the dominant operating system in this era of worries about government snooping. Android’s chief appeal, it states, lies in the comparative affordability of the supported phones. “But, it’s increasingly clear, they are more vulnerable to the Gammas of the world,” the article says, “and from the police and intelligence services that use their tools.”

find_iphoneThe article cautions that Apple users aren’t completely safe — someone with FinSpy could hack into the computer you use to back up your iDevice (yes, even a Mac) and get the information from there.

You can read the full document over at Wikileaks.

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Related story:

iPhone thief killed by owner’s father

By Leif Johnson From MacLife

Apple’s “Find My iPhone” feature has been credited with helping to push back the tide of iPhone thefts, and stories abound of users being reunited with their handsets after using the nifty feature. But when Derek Grant of Glasgow, Scotland used the feature to find his son’s stolen iPhone, the day ended in tragedy. Yesterday, Grant pleaded guilty to a homicide charge in a Glasgow court.

As the Daily Record reports, the phone was stolen from Grant’s son at knifepoint on August 30 of last year as he walked home from work at McDonald’s. Using the app on another device, Grant realized that the phone was nearby and set off with his three sons to recover it from Patrick Bradley, “who had a significant record for violence.” For protection, he took a knife with him.

As the Record describes it, the 29-year-old Bradley didn’t give up the phone upon being caught; instead, he stabbed Grant in the left eye, blinding him. Grant “lashed out” in response and repeatedly stabbed Bradley, who died the next morning from cardiac arrest.

Grant and his sons were initially charged with murder, but the court chose not to accept the “guilty” pleas of his children. Grant’s “guilty” plea managed to the charge reduced to “culpable homicide.” If that weren’t bad enough, Grant’s injury also cost him his job as a driver.

“I wish to declare for the record that at the time of this ­incident, I was acting in self-defense,” Grant said. His lawyer, Ian Duguid, stated that Grant’s actions were only a “reaction to the extreme violence” of the situation. Sentencing is scheduled for September 1.

Grant’s unfortunate incident happened mere days ahead of the release of iOS 7’s Activation Lock, which requires the Apple ID and password of the original owner to wipe the phone before it can be assigned to a different user. Coupled with Find My iPhone, it’s played a heavy role in decline of iPhone thefts (which nevertheless continue to be a problem).

And if you ever find yourself in a situation similar to that which Derek Grant found himself in last August — just to be on the safe side, call the cops.

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