Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Physical hacking techniques, such as intercepting phone shipments, was something that had been previously hinted at in documents released by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. (Photo: Toshiyuki IMAI/cc/flickr)

Physical hacking techniques, such as intercepting phone shipments, was something that had been previously hinted at in documents released by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. (Photo: Toshiyuki IMAI/cc/flickr)

Latest WikiLeak Dump Shows CIA Hacking iPhones Since 2008

Outlet says it is likely that CIA "infected" Apple's supply chain, including by "interdicting mail orders"

Lauren McCauley

On the tails of its damning CIA hacking bombshell, WikiLeaks on Thursday published another trove of documents outlining how the spy agency has been uploading secret software to Apple devices dating back to 2008.

Named 'Dark Matter,' the latest release shows that that CIA has been infecting iPhones since shortly after the product's launch in June 2007, and in some cases "interdicted mail orders and other shipments" to open, infect, and resend devices leaving the United States.

In its press statement, WikiLeaks said it was "noteworthy" that the NightSkies program, said to be a "beacon/loader/implant tool" for the Apple iPhone, "had reached 1.2 by 2008, and is expressly designed to be physically installed onto factory fresh iPhones. I.e the CIA has been infecting the iPhone supply chain of its targets since at least 2008." 

TechCrunch observes: "It was quite powerful as NightSkies could access your address book, SMS conversations and call logs in order to upload it to the CIA’s servers. The agency could also execute commands on the iPhone remotely to install new tools and more."

"While CIA assets are sometimes used to physically infect systems in the custody of a target it is likely that many CIA physical access attacks have infected the targeted organization's supply chain including by interdicting mail orders and other shipments (opening, infecting, and resending) leaving the United States or otherwise," WikiLeaks noted.

This technique was something that had been previously hinted at in documents released by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Among other capabilities, according to the outlet, the second batch of Vault 7 documents reveal the so-called "Sonic Screwdriver" project which, "as explained by the CIA, is a 'mechanism for executing code on peripheral devices while a Mac laptop or desktop is booting' allowing an attacker to boot its attack software for example from a USB stick 'even when a firmware password is enabled.'"

Pedro Vilaca, a security researcher who specializes in Apple computers, told Vice Motherboard that it appears that the CIA agents were "very early adopters" of this kind of hacking technology.

The document dump showcases many of the CIA's older hacking techniques but, TechCrunch points out that it remains "unclear if some of them still work today."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Trump-Appointed Judge Permanently Blocks Biden's Oil and Gas Leasing Moratorium

Fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and waters has accounted for an estimated 25% of all U.S. carbon emissions since 2005.

Jake Johnson ·


In Landslide 1,108-to-387 Vote, Maine Nurses Reject Effort to Decertify Their Union

"They thought because we were a new union, they could manipulate Maine Med nurses and overturn our 2021 election," said one nurse. "But we just showed them the door."

Jake Johnson ·


Dems Threaten to Subpoena FTI Consulting Over 'Blanket Refusal' to Provide Info on Fossil Fuel Work

"FTI's refusal to cooperate with this congressional inquiry shows that they have something to hide, which will reveal the dangerous ways agencies like theirs have promoted fossil fuel greenwash and misinformation," said the Clean Creatives campaign's leader.

Jessica Corbett ·


Bad Day for DeSantis as 'Stop WOKE Act' Hit With Injunction, Lawsuit

"If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case," a federal judge wrote in blocking part of the controversial law. "But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents."

Brett Wilkins ·


US Judge Says Mar-a-Lago Affidavit 'Can Be Unsealed' With Redactions

"This is going to be a considered, careful process, where everybody's rights, the government's and the media's, will be protected," declared U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo