Why Surveillance Companies Hate The IPhone

The secrets of one of the world's most prominent surveillance companies, Gamma Group, spilled onto the internet last week, courtesy of an anonymous leaker who appears to have gained access to sensitive corporate documents.

While they provide illuminating details about the capabilities of Gamma's many spy tools, perhaps the most surprising revelation is about something the company is unable to do: it can't hack into your typical iPhone.

Companies that make surveillance tools are said to hate the iPhone's security features.
Companies that make surveillance tools are said to hate the iPhone's security features. Photo: Reuters

Android phones, some Blackberries and phones running older Microsoft operating systems all are vulnerable to Gamma's spyware, called FinSpy, which can turn a smartphone into a potent surveillance device. Users of the spyware are capable of listening to calls on targeted devices, stealing contacts, activating the microphone, tracking the owner's location and more.

But for FinSpy to hack into an iPhone, the phone's owner must have already stripped away much of its built-in security through a process called "jailbreaking". No jailbreak, no FinSpy on your iPhone, at least according to a leaked Gamma document dated April 2014.

This is good news for people with iPhones, and perhaps for Apple as well. But at a time of rising concern about government surveillance powers, it's ironic that a different mobile operating system - Google's Android - has emerged as the global standard, with a dominant share of the world market. Android phones have more features. They come in more shapes, sizes and colours. And they're cheaper. But, it's increasingly clear, they are more vulnerable to the Gammas of the world, which develop and sell surveillance systems to police and government intelligence services.

The result is what might be called a growing "surveillance gap". Some civil libertarians have begun pointing out that the people on the safer side of that gap - with stronger protections against the potential for government abuse - are the relatively affluent people who already favour Apple products. Those willing to pay a premium for an iPhone or iPad, perhaps for their design elegance or ease of use, are also getting disk encryption by default, an instant messaging system that resists eavesdropping and an operating system that even powerful surveillance companies have trouble cracking.

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Source : http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/why-surveillance-companies-hate-the-iphone-20140812-1032na.html

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