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Apple Responds to iOS “Backdoors” Charges – Outlines Legitimate Uses for Services

Apple Responds to iOS “Backdoors” Charges – Outlines Legitimate Uses for Services

Earlier this week saw forensic expert Jonathan Zdziarski disclose what he termed “backdoors” in iOS that could allow for nefarious data collection of information from users’ devices. In addition to an earlier statement denying any underhanded intentions, Apple has also posted a new support document offering a description of the three services highlighted by Zdziarski.

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Apple Support Document, via MacRumors:

Each of these diagnostic capabilities requires the user to have unlocked their device and agreed to trust another computer. Any data transmitted between the iOS device and trusted computer is encrypted with keys not shared with Apple. For users who have enabled iTunes Wi-Fi Sync on a trusted computer, these services may also be accessed wirelessly by that computer.

The three processes include: 

  • com.apple.mobile.pcapd: Diagnostic packet capture to a trusted computer, used for diagnosing app issues and enterprise VPN connection problems. 
  • com.apple.mobile.file_relay: Used on internal devices and can be accessed (with user permission) by AppleCare for diagnostic purposes on the user’s device. 
  • com.apple.mobile.house_arrest: Used by iTunes for document transfer and by Xcode during app development and testing. 

While today’s disclosures does demonstrate a willingness by Apple to share information about the services, it is likely security experts will have additional questions concerning the services, how they work, and if there are more secure methods available for the same purposes.

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