Earlier this week, Apple denied claims that it had hidden secret backdoors in its iOS platform that could allow the government or malicious users to extract a variety of critical and personal details about a device’s user from an iPhone or iPad, sometimes storing that data in unencrypted formats.
Today, the company published a new document on its support website explaining the diagnostic tools that iOS uses to collect data for troubleshooting and other purposes. According to the document:
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pcapd supports diagnostic packet capture from an iOS device to a trusted computer. This is useful for troubleshooting and diagnosing issues with apps on the device as well as enterprise VPN connections. You can find more information at developer.apple.com/library/ios/qa/qa1176.
file_relay supports limited copying of diagnostic data from a device. This service 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.
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.
As can be gathered from the text of the note, the files in question are used in troubleshooting issues with iOS devices, interoperating with iTunes for Mac and PC, app development through Xcode, AppleCare support calls, and internal testing on unreleased software.
The document notes that if a device has been enabled for wireless syncing with an iTunes library, these services can be activated over a Wi-Fi network, but only by the trusted computer that the device is set to sync with. The data is encrypted during the transfer between the device and the computer, and not even Apple is able to access the data in transit.