Apple Once Helped the U.S. Government Create a Modded iPod

Two ipods in black and white side by side.
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Here’s a story of an unlikely alliance: Back in 2005, the U.S. Government asked Apple for help modifying an iPod. What did the government want to do exactly? We don’t know for sure. But we do know the modded iPod could record data and hide its true nature from PCs and Macs. At least, that’s what former Apple software engineer David Shayer tells us.

Over on TidBits, Shayer lays out the story. One day in 2005, he was in his office at Apple HQ when the director of iPod came in and closed the door behind him. Shayer’s “boss’s boss” had an assignment: work with the government to teach them how to build a special iPod. Nobody could know and don’t ask questions.

Shayer didn’t do any work on the iPod, nor was he allowed to see what hardware the contractors associated with the government intended to add. Instead, he provided access to current source code (which couldn’t leave the building) and answered questions while getting them up to speed on iPod development.

The contractors wanted to know how to store data so that it wouldn’t show up if someone connected the iPod to a PC or Mac. They also wanted to add a subtle menu option to start and stop recording data.

Apple didn’t provide software beyond the source code or hardware. The contractors even bought their own iPods to work with, fifth-generation iPod which contained a 60 GB hard drive, and crucially didn’t come with a signed OS.

Shayer can’t be certain what the government wanted to turn the iPod into, but his best guess is a surreptitious Geiger counter. In iPod form, Department of Energy agents could walk around and use it, and no one would be the wiser. It’d look like someone listening to music on the go.

The whole tale is over on TidBits, and it’s every bit worth the read. Don’t miss out.

Source: TidBits

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