iOS 7 teaser (iPhone 5s ad 009)

Forensic expert, and former jailbreak hacker, Jonathan Zdziarski caused quite a stir earlier this week when he published a report accusing Apple of building backdoors into iOS that could be used for government surveillance.

Apple of course came out and denied the claim, saying that these so-called ‘backdoor services’ are actually used for troubleshooting. But this wasn’t a good enough explanation for a lot of users, so tonight it delved a little deeper…

Apple has published a new support page this evening entitled “iOS: About diagnostic capabilities.” The document essentially outlines some of the processes Zdziarski pointed to in his report, and what their legitimate purpose are.

iOS offers the following diagnostic capabilities to help enterprise IT departments, developers, and AppleCare troubleshoot issues.

Each of these diagnostic capabilities requires the user to have unlocked their device and agreed to trust another computer. Any data transmitted between the iOS device and trusted computer is encrypted with keys not shared with Apple. For users who have enabled iTunes Wi-Fi Sync on a trusted computer, these services may also be accessed wirelessly by that computer.

1. com.apple.mobile.pcapd

pcapd supports diagnostic packet capture from an iOS device to a trusted computer. This is useful for troubleshooting and diagnosing issues with apps on the device as well as enterprise VPN connections. You can find more information at developer.apple.com/library/ios/qa/qa1176.

2. com.apple.mobile.file_relay

file_relay supports limited copying of diagnostic data from a device. This service is separate from user-generated backups, does not have access to all data on the device, and respects iOS Data Protection. Apple engineering uses file_relay on internal devices to qualify customer configurations. AppleCare, with user consent, can also use this tool to gather relevant diagnostic data from users’ devices.

3. com.apple.mobile.house_arrest

house_arrest is used by iTunes to transfer documents to and from an iOS device for apps that support this functionality. This is also used by Xcode to assist in the transfer of test data to a device while an app is in development.

Users have been questioning Apple’s stance on privacy ever since it was named in Edward Snowden’s PRISM leak last summer. The company continues to deny that is has any involvement in any government surveillance program.

This support page obviously doesn’t answer all of the questions, but at the very least, it shows a willingness on Apple’s part to discuss user concerns.

  • Litchy

    If he says so^^

  • Soylent Green

    Must be a rumour that apple allow the nsa FULL access to any & all your data as & when they see fit, prism doesnt exist, 2+2=5, raising the debt ceiling doesnt increase the debt, alot of their nefarious snooping activities are hidden in plain sight, alot are documented on record via various sources including ex employees of the gov that like snowden who actually believe in what is set out in the constitution read more at infowars or prisonplanet or just go for infowars nightly news, 100x bigger audience than the dead msnbc etc

    • MikeOxlong

      Wow, delusional crackpot you are. Say hello to Alex for me, you wank.

    • chjode

      ITM!

  • shar

    it should have started with

    “iOS offers the following diagnostic capabilities to help enterprise IT departments, developers, AppleCare, ‘hackers’ and ‘government agencies’ find their way in .”

    what apple should do is to put a switch to turn them all off/on completely if necessary and the default should be “off”, but I somehow doubt that will happen.

  • Infinite Production

    Must have scared Apple for a sec

  • Rowan09

    If you’re doing illegal activities don’t use a cellphone especially a smartphone. If you’re running from the government the same applies.

  • Bugs Bunnay

    “3. com.apple.mobile.house_arrest” should have given it away… what apple said about it was cover up and to get you off their ass

    • Shannon Code

      House arrest plays off the jailed nomenclature. File_relay has been known about and used by toolmakers, jail breakers and forensics experts for years, this guy just hights each pivot point to make a forensic chained exploit. NSA doesn’t need to have anyone build them back doors. The best of the best hackers already work there and find the bugs way before researchers or badguys. Watch any Movie about government made in the past 20 years, we all knew it was going on.

      • Soylent Green

        Exactly, lol if a popup on iphone says “semi-blind yourself to proceed”, many, (way too many) eyepatches would sell then, sad state of affairs, apple are the nsa.