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FBI Crack Terrorist’s Encrypted iPhone

FBI Director James Comey and Apple CEO Tim Cook
FBI Director James Comey and Apple CEO Tim Cook

FBI vs Apple
FBI:1 Apple:0

So the FBI have successfully unlocked San Bernardino gunman and ISIS sympathiser Syed Farook’s iPhone without Apple’s help; a court filing stated the government had successfully accessed the data, but did not elaborate on what information it managed to recover.

Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people, injured 22 and subsequently died in a gun battle with police in California, in December 2015.

The FBI has filed court papers to withdraw its case against Apple because it could now access the iPhone without Aplle’s help. However there was no indication about how the FBI did it so if the information is classified Apple may be left in the dark about what method was used to crack their phone and where the weakness lies.

How the FBI cracked terrorist’s iPhone

iPhone 5c
iPhone 5c

The FBI was able to access the phone due to help from a company from outside, but would not reveal the name of the company, and is now reviewing the information it has recovered. The Justice Department and the FBI believe that it is a priority for them to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails.

Apple responded to the announcement and told reporters it did not know what methods the government was using, but it would continue to focus on security.

How has the FBI been able to penetrate the iPhone’s reportedly almost impregnable encryption? Well, according to forensics experts it is possible the FBI used either the hardware method (NAND mirroring) or a software method (exploitation). Depending on what technique was employed by the FBI, newer iPhone devices may now be susceptible to FBI cracking their encryption codes.

Using a hardware method may mean that only A6 devices would be affected; this would mean the iPhone 5c and older devices could likely be accessed using such a hardware method. However, a software approach to cracking the encryption could ultimately leave newer devices vulnerable to decoding by the FBI.

One crucial issue here is the unusual step taken by the FBI when it earlier announced that it had been approached by a ‘third party’ who had the tools that could crack the code. Normally the FBI does not divulge information like this – something it prefers to keep close to its chest.

However, following the bruising court battle with Apple as well as the loud support given to Apple by the likes of Google and Facebook; it seems the FBI is sending a message to all tech companies: When we need important information relating to national security, you can either cooperate with us or we do it the hard way – rough you up in court and still decode your encryption.

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