CIA was working hard to break Apple's data protection systems, but did they succeed?

CIA's decade-long quest to break iPhone security

CIA was developing software to spy on iPhone and iPad users through apps distributed by Apple’s App store.

The information was revealed by US news site The Intercept, referring to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

According to the report, CIA researchers worked for about ten years to create a version of the XCode, Apple’s software application development tool that would allow them to embed their surveillance code into the apps unnoticed.

The leaked documents, covering a period between 2006 and 2013, stop short of proving whether the researchers were actually successful, the Intercept said.

According to the report, the US security researchers embarked on the project to break Apple’s security encryption as early as 2006, one year before the first iPhone came to the market. The project further continued beyond 2010, the year of iPad's introduction.

The endeavour was part of a top-secret programme by the US government and British GCHQ aiming to hack ‘secure communications products, both foreign and domestic’ including Google Android phones.

Apple, as well as other Silicon Valley tech companies, has been adamant they had by no means allowed any government to exploit its products to spy on users.

"I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services," Apple’s CEO Tim Cook wrote in a statement published on the company’s website last year. "We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will."

In the wake of the 2013 Snowden revelations, Apple strengthened its encryption methods for data stored on iPhones, saying the changes meant the company no longer had any way to extract customer data on the devices, even if a government ordered it to with a search warrant. Google followed soon after saying it also planned to increase the use of stronger encryption tools.

Leaders including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed concern that turning such privacy-enhancing tools into mass market features could prevent governments from tracking militants planning attacks.

No comment by the CIA was available.

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