Why James Bond Doesn’t Use an iPhone

No Time To Die is almost upon us, and scores of James Bond fanatics are eager to see the spy use ingenious gadgets to save the day. But does he actually use the very best tech to get the job done? We think not. Laser Polaroid camera, anyone?

Before we get into what competent real-life spies should be using, let’s look at what Bond is set to wield in his long-delayed latest outing. Thanks to the pandemic’s cinematic shutdown, the movie will feature the Nokia 3310, Nokia 7.2, and Nokia 8.3 5G. Release dates for these phones came in the year 2000, September 2019, and October 2020, respectively. 

Even looking past the unlikely union of Britain’s fictional superspy and Nokia, a brand that captured a mere 0.7 percent of the smartphone market in Q4 last year, out-of-date mobiles are hardly cutting edge bad-guy-beating tech—and that’s probably not entirely a good thing.

James Hadley, CEO and founder of Immersive Labs—a cybersecurity training and skills platform—and previously of the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters had this to say on Bond’s untimely mobile choices: “If Bond is handed an older Android phone, he should check Q has updated the OS to prevent against new software vulnerabilities.”

However, Hadley sees the merits in older phones, but they just aren’t practical for a modern spy. “There are some people who believe using ‘dumb phones’—pre-smartphone devices less reliant on software—keep them safer,” he says. “However, this would obviously limit Bond’s ability to use even the most basic internet applications.”

So, for these older phones, it’s about prepping them to make them less vulnerable. As Hadley says, fingers crossed Q is savvy when it comes to modern security threats and not just lethal fountain pens. Jake Moore, a cybersecurity expert at internet security firm Eset and a former police officer, explains: “Usually older devices come with more security threats, but if a device has been set up correctly with limited user control and bespoke tweaks, then the anti-tracking, anti-surveillance would balance out the legacy operating system and other flaws.”

What if Bond were using a bleeding-edge technology then, the very latest? Well, we know from the director of another Daniel Craig joint, Rian Johnson of Knives Out, that James Bond would be free to use an iPhone should a deal be struck. The director revealed in an interview with Vanity Fair that Apple disallows movie villains from using its latest and greatest devices. 

However, an iPhone would not be a good option for 007. “Untraceable phones with anti-surveillance, anti-interception, and location-spoofing functionality are a must for James Bond. An iPhone, however formatted, just wouldn’t be able to offer this ability to ensure tracking isn’t an option,” says Moore. “The security of an iPhone is impressive enough for the normal user, but with threats such as Pegasus around periodically, it makes it difficult for a spy to use one securely and confidently.”

Pegasus is a piece of NSO (an Israeli technology firm) spyware affecting the iPhone that could copy messages, record calls, and even access the camera. Apple has responded by releasing patches to fix bugs that were thought to have been exploited by Pegasus. 

“Pegasus spyware would no doubt be used by adversaries to target James Bond if he were an iPhone user,” says Moore. “While an iPhone might be good for capturing pictures of explosions and car chases, any downloading of embassy blueprints or covert incursions should be done on a locked-down terminal managed by a specialist team, inside a secure network,” Hadley says.

However, there’s also more to it than Pegasus, with a recent “explosive” spyware report looking into the further concerns security experts have relating to iOS, stating Apple’s closed ecosystem approach restricts their ability to use monitoring tools and conduct investigations necessary to uncover vulnerabilities.

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