Independent research firm sued by Apple now wants to help vet the phone maker’s child sexual abuse scanning system

One of Apple’s legal foes has offered to help independent researchers analyze the tech giant’s controversial new scanning software for detecting child sexual abuse material on iPhones.

a bird flying in the air: The Apple logo on a store in San Francisco in April.

© David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
The Apple logo on a store in San Francisco in April.

Corellium’s new “Open Security Initative” will offer $5,000 grants to security researchers to support “independent public research into the security and privacy of mobile applications,” according to the company’s announcement. That includes verifying Apple’s new photo scanning initiative’s privacy and security claims.


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On Friday, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, defended Apple’s child sexual abuse material initiative in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. He said independent security researchers could inspect iPhones to ensure the system does not overstep the bounds of its intended use.

Corellium offers a service that can be used by security researchers to probe “virtual” iPhones, inspecting Apple’s mobile operating system in a way that is not possible on off-the-shelf, physical devices. Apple sought to shut that service down with a lawsuit, claiming it violated the company’s intellectual property. The two companies settled last week.

The uproar over Apple’s decision to police photos stems from the company’s controversial decision to do part of the policing for explicit images of children locally on consumers’ devices. Security experts immediately raised concerns, ranging from possible abuse by authoritarian governments to exploitation by hackers.

The issues are at the heart of a long combative and complicated relationship with the security research community, many of whom say that Apple doesn’t allow for the same flexibility allowed by some rivals. The security of Apple’s locked-down mobile operating system has come under scrutiny in the wake of new revelations about hacking using software licensed by the Israeli company NSO Group to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals. Some researchers have called on Apple to remove its long-standing road blocks that stand in the way of…