New documents from WikiLeaks point to an apparent CIA program to hack Apple’s iPhones and Mac computers using techniques that users couldn’t disable by resetting their devices.
Security experts say the exploits are plausible, but suggest they pose little threat to typical users. They say that many of the tricks are older — the iPhone hack involves the 3G model from 2008, for instance. The techniques also typically require physical access to devices, something the CIA would use only for targeted individuals, not a broader population.
“The most notable part of this latest WikiLeaks release is that it shows the CIA doing exactly what we pay them to — exploit specific targets with limited attacks to support our national interests,” said Rich Mogull, CEO of the security research firm Securosis.
Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment. The CIA has not commented on the authenticity of this and earlier WikiLeaks revelations, but has previously said it complies with a legal prohibition against electronic surveillance “targeting individuals here at home, including our fellow Americans.” The agency declined further comment Thursday.
The leaks Thursday come about two weeks after WikiLeaks published thousands of alleged CIA documents describing hacking tools it said the government employed to break into computers, mobile phones and even smart TVs from companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung.
The latest disclosures are much more focused and consist of just 12 documents, all involving Apple products. The documents describe techniques for rewriting devices’ firmware in ways that would maintain a hacker’s access even if a user resets a phone or computer to factory settings. Doing so wipes out all apps and the operating system and installs a clean version; it is an extreme measure sometimes used to deal with technical problems, but is also the sort of step that someone suspicious of…