Apple iOS NSA backdoors
Suggestions that Apple worked with the NSA to incorporate backdoors and surveillance mechanisms into its iOS devices have been denied by the company.Reuters

Apple has denied working with government organisations to create backdoors in its iOS mobile operating system, following a report that appeared to reveal some services may be being used by intelligence agencies to collect data on targets.

A presentation published by Jonathan Zdziaski, an iOS security and hacking expert, identified backdoors and surveillance mechanisms in iOS devices and suggested a possible connection with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

"I suspect (based on released documents) that some of these services may have been used by the NSA to collect data on potential targets," Zdziaski wrote in a blogpost introducing the presentation.

"I am not suggesting some grand conspiracy; there are, however, some services running in iOS that shouldn't be there, that were intentionally added by Apple as part of the firmware, and that bypass backup encryption while copying more of your personal data than ever should come off the phone for the average consumer."

'Troubleshooting technical issues'

In response to these claims, Apple issued a statement denying any government involvement in the creation of such backdoors, instead claiming that such services are used for diagnostics purposes for debugging software.

"We have designed iOS so that its diagnostic functions do not compromise user privacy and security, but still provides needed information to enterprise IT departments, developers and Apple for troubleshooting technical issues," the Cupertino-based company said in a statement seen by Apple news site iMore.

"The user must agree to share this (diagnostic) information, and data is never transferred without their consent. As we have said before, Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services."

Apple is yet to respond to IBTimes UK to a request for comment on the matter.

Dangerous regardless of NSA involvement

Zdziaski's presentation cites reports in Der Spiegel that claims documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the intelligence agency was able to access contact lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information through Apple's iOS.

"In the internal documents, experts boast about successful access to iPhone data in instances where the NSA is able to infiltrate the computer a person uses to sync their iPhone," the German newspaper reported.

"Mini-programs, so-called 'scripts' then enable additional access to at least 38 iPhone features."

While there is no evidence that Apple worked with the NSA, some critics have argued that even the existence of backdoors such as these is potentially very dangerous for users of iOS devices.

"Apple isn't in bed with the NSA or the lizard people," said Mac developer Matthew Drayton. "But there is the potential for a massive data leak of private data and something more than dismissive dribble from a PR person needs to be done."