This is how the NSA gets unrestricted access to your iPhone

A new batch of documents suggests the government's spies can remotely turn on your phone's camera and microphone

NSA iPhone
(Image credit: (Andrew Burton/Getty Images))

The National Security Agency has already demonstrated that it is willing to go to great lengths to swipe information from unsuspecting targets, from bulk-tapping phone records to more absurd stuff like monitoring potential threats in World of Warcraft.

The latest revelations, however, paint an increasingly troubling portrait of the NSA's surveillance capabilities, particularly if you're an iPhone owner. Back in September, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had gained access to BlackBerrys, Androids, and iPhones. And now we have a better idea of how backdoor access is unlocked.

According to security researcher Jacob Appelbaum, a new batch of leaked documents showcases how the NSA is able to easily break into iPhones, allowing the agency to gather SMS messages, contact lists, location data, photos, videos, and more. The NSA can even reportedly activate your camera and microphone remotely.

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This is accomplished by installing spyware directly onto the device, part of a program called DROPOUTJEEP. Disturbingly, the program reportedly has a 100 percent success rate.

As the Daily Dot points out, it appears that the NSA requires physical access to an iPhone to install the malware, which could be accomplished by rerouting shipments of devices purchased online. Appelbaum presented his findings at the Chaos Communication Conference in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this week. You can watch his talk in full here:

"Either [the NSA has] a huge collection of exploits that work against Apple products, meaning they are hoarding information about critical systems that American companies produce, and sabotaging them," Appelbaum says at one point, "or Apple sabotaged it themselves."

Whether Apple is complicit in the program has yet to be proven. It should be noted that the NSA's very talented super spies seem to get a kick out of exploiting loopholes at big tech companies.