Apple Inc. smartphones and tablets were targeted by hackers from the Central Intelligence Agency for nearly 10 years.
CIA researchers tried to break into the devices, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing investigative news website The Intercept.
The revelation was based on documents obtained from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
It cited top-secret documents that suggest government researchers had created a version of XCode, Apple’s software application development tool, to create surveillance backdoors into programs distributed on Apple’s App Store.
The documents, which covered 2006 to 2013, did not say whether United States intelligence researchers had succeeded in breaking Apple’s encryption code which secures user data and communications.
Efforts to break into Apple products by government security researchers started as early as 2006, a year before Apple introduced its first iPhone and continued through the launch of the iPad in 2010 and beyond, the report said.
The operation was part of a top-secret program by the US government, aided by British intelligence researchers, to hack “secure communications products, both foreign and domestic” including Google Android phones, it said.
In September, Apple strengthened 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 Inc. said shortly afterward that it also planned to increase the use of stronger encryption tools.
Both companies said the moves were aimed at protecting the privacy of users of their products and that this was partly a response to widescale U.S. government spying on Internet users revealed by Snowden in 2013.
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