Total surveillance through the back door – Apple’s fatal fall from grace

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“It’s an absolutely horrific idea because it will lead to distributed mass surveillance of our phones and laptops,” commented security expert Ross Anderson on Apple’s latest advance in terms of “security”. The cryptography professor Matthew Green warns of a dam break. There is nothing to add. Except of course:


Ironically, the IT group, which likes to adorn itself with the image of the defenders of our privacy, can be harnessed to the cart of the surveillance state. IPhone scanning for child porn is about nothing less than system-anchored bugs that are constantly looking for incriminated content on our devices! What exactly they are looking for is of course secret. But what can go wrong there?

Jürgen Schmidt – aka ju – is the managing editor of heise Security and Senior Fellow Security at heise. A physicist by training, he has been working for Heise for over 15 years and is also interested in the areas of networks, Linux and open source.

No, it is not enough to leave that in the rough. I’d rather list a few things that will go wrong:

0) After initially only scanning images in the cloud, the process is expanded to include all content. Otherwise the whole thing doesn’t make any sense.

1) The list of things that are being searched for is constantly being expanded. In the beginning this is child pornography – as always when you need the broadest possible consensus for new surveillance options. Then you look for terrorists, human traffickers, drug dealers and so on and so forth. At least those are the alleged goals. Of course, we are all secretly monitored – constantly.

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2) States demand and get influence on the search criteria and of course access to the alarms triggered by them. So not just the USA and Germany. But also China, Russia, Hungary, Belarus, Saudi Arabia and so on. After all, a company has to comply with applicable law. And of course the manufacturer wants to continue selling its equipment.

3) Other manufacturers are following suit and adding similar functions. And at some point this form of surveillance will even be prescribed. And why should this be limited to smartphones and notebooks? Why not monitor cameras and game consoles as well? The entire Internet of Things will be one surveillance nightmare.

4) Ways to hack the search process are found. In other words, to specifically create images or documents that are actually harmless, but still trigger a hit. And that will be subjugated to people in order to discredit them.

Equipping our cell phones and computers with a permanent monitoring function that reports any kind of malfunction to the manufacturer is a terrible idea. It is a breach of the dam that will lead to an unprecedented total surveillance. Anyone who is even considering something like this has to face massive headwinds.

So now everyone:



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