Yet another Vault 7 document leak from Wikileaks shows how the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA, was able to ‘infect’ iOS and macOS firmware right from the factory. Essentially, the leaks exposed a project called Sonic Screwdriver, a “mechanism for executing code on peripheral devices while a Mac laptop or desktop is booting,” along with several types of malware targeting Apple MacBook Air models.
But Apple seems unfazed by the revelations, saying that the iOS hacks were patched several years ago, in 2009, when iPhone 3GS was released. The hacks, therefore, only made the earlier iPhone 3G vulnerable. As for the “alleged” Mac exploits, those were patched on all Macs sold post 2013.
Essentially, that means the hacks and exploits have no implications whatsoever for current users of iOS and Mac devices, which will come as a bit of a relief to the owners of the over 1 billion iPhones and millions more Mac devices that are active today.
Apple also stated that they have not received any information from Wikileaks other than what’s already in the public domain, this despite the Cupertino smartphone giant sending instructions to Wikileaks on how to submit any additional data.
While this is good news for Apple’s users, it’s not the best situation for Apple to be in. Just earlier this week Apple had to fend off rumors about another alleged security breach involving 559 million iPhones. Though that hack was traced back to LinkedIn much before Microsoft acquired the professional social media company, the effect of all this talk around cybersecurity threats to Apple’s device ecosystem can’t be great on the company’s investors.
The issue for Apple’s stakeholders is not about when a particular exploit was patched or whether their security systems or devices were actually hacked into; the issues is about the possibility of all that user data still floating around and putting long-time iPhone, iPad, iPod, MacBook and iMac users at risk.
Apple is playing it down as much as it can, but questions have been raised about how secure the Apple ecosystem really is. iOS is famous for its security protocols, but it is equally true that the entire jailbreak community exists because security researchers are still able to find exploits in Apple’s mobile operating system.
Apple’s image is being seriously tarnished with these recent reports of hacking and data theft, but the story goes back at least a few years, and it involves not only iOS, but also macOS, iCloud and the hardware itself.
Apple prides itself on the premium hardware and software it makes, and that pride has been taking hits from all directions. They’ll get over it, that much is certain, but a lot of damage has already been done.
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