updated 09:22 am EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Tools intended strictly for diagnostics, file capture, company says
In another step to address concerns of possible backdoors in iOS, Apple has published a newdocument explaining what three services are intended to do. The first, com.apple.mobile.pcapd, is said to support "diagnostic packet capture from an iOS device to a trusted computer," something useful for "troubleshooting and diagnosing issues with apps on the device as well as enterprise VPN connections." Another, com.apple.mobile.file_relay, "supports limited copying of diagnostic data from a device."
The company adds that file_relay is "separate from user-generated backups, does not have access to all data on the device, and respects iOS Data Protection. Apple engineering uses file_relay on internal devices to qualify customer configurations. AppleCare, with user consent, can also use this tool to gather relevant diagnostic data from users' devices."
Lastly, com.apple.mobile.house_arrest is "used by iTunes to transfer documents to and from an iOS device for apps that support this functionality. This is also used by Xcode to assist in the transfer of test data to a device while an app is in development."
Whether or not this will calm concerns remains to be seen. Forensic software firms are reportedly using the services to help law enforcement, and it's possible that organizations like the NSA are more deeply exploiting the services without Apple's consent. The document may reduce suspicions that Apple has willingly opened up iOS to spying.