Late last week we found out that the FBI can’t hack Apple’s latest iPhones. In fact, according to its director, the tool used to extract information from the San Bernardino iPhone 5c can’t be used on anything newer than the iPhone 5s. Not even the iPhone 5s which was launched simultaneously with the iPhone 5c can’t be hacked that way.
The FBI withdrew its assault on iPhone encryption after it managed to hack its way into the San Bernardino iPhone. Soon after that, the agency notified other law enforcement officials across the country that it’ll try and help out unlock other iPhones from various criminal investigations.
The FBI is yet to tell Apple how it performed the hack, but the Bureau does talk about it with senators. In the meantime, the FBI confirmed that while it may be able to hack some iPhones, the iPhone 6s is impenetrable for the time being.
A mysterious hacking group has had access to U.S. government files for years and the hackers might still be able to siphon data off government computer networks. The hack apparently dates back to 2011, though it may be linked to attacks on the U.S. government’s computer infrastructure originating in 2008.
Apple’s fight with the FBI over the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone isn’t over yet because now Apple has to figure out how the FBI actually hacked into the device without Apple’s help.
The FBI did not reveal to Apple how it bypassed the security protocols built into iOS, but the bureau told law enforcement agencies that it will help them in their investigations. Even if it doesn’t provide specifics about the iPhone hack at its disposal, the more iPhones the FBI unlocks for criminal cases, the more likely Apple will be able to figure out how it’s gaining access. More →
The FBI insists that encrypted products like the iPhone and encrypted online services will put people in harm’s way, especially in light of the ISIS-connected San Bernardino shooting late last year. That’s why the Bureau has been arguing for encryption backdoors that would be available to law enforcement agencies, and why it looked to coerce Apple to add a backdoor to iOS.
However, extensive reports that show the preparations ISIS made before hitting Paris and Brussels revealed the kind of encrypted products ISIS radicals used to stay in touch with central command. Unsurprisingly, these products are out of the FBI’s jurisdiction, and one in particular was one of the safest encrypted communication products you can find online. In fact,its original developers are suspected to have ties to the criminal underworld. More →
Much has been written about the massive fight between the FBI and Apple over encryption in the high-profile San Bernardino shooting case. Apple has won the battle for the time being, though the FBI has managed to break into the phone without Apple’s help. What’s more, the Bureau will soon help hack into other iOS devices that law enforcement agencies across the country want to unlock.
Can the FBI do the same thing with Android devices? More →
We were wondering whether the FBI will agree to use in other cases the same hack that unlocked the San Bernardino iPhone just earlier this week, and it turns out the agency is more than willing to share its newly acquired know-how to help other law enforcement agencies solve their on-going investigations. Just days after it confirmed it didn’t need Apple to access the local files of the iPhone 5c that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters, the FBI agreed to assist an Arkansas prosecutor unlock an iPhone and iPod that may contain relevant evidence to a double homicide case. More →
Now that the FBI no longer needs Apple’s help to access the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists, one might reasonably think that the long and publicly drawn-out debate over mobile encryption, government surveillance, user privacy and national security will settle down and fade from public view.
And for a while, it most likely will. Still, even though Apple may have won this specific battle with the FBI over one particular iPhone, nothing has truly been resolved aside from the FBI figuring out a way to hack into Apple’s 2013 iPhone 5c. In the future, there is no doubt that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will stumble across more advanced and secure iPhone models they’re unable to access.
Apple’s legal saga with the FBI may have finally come to an anti-climactic resolution, but the issues that the case brought to the forefront will undoubtedly rise again. In the future, there will inevitably be another strategically important smartphone, perhaps an iPhone, that the FBI won’t be able to access by itself.
One of the more interesting issues to arise out of Apple’s legal wrangling with the FBI is that the mighty FBI’s tech prowess is seemingly far less sophisticated than some may have initially assumed. In fact, the FBI’s inability to access the locked iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters was so surprising and incongruous that Apple in one of its legal briefs was even compelled to ask if the FBI really tried all that hard to hack into the device.
Apple beat the FBI this week, as it avoided a legal battle against the law enforcement agency over creating a backdoor into the San Bernardino iPhone. The war on encryption isn’t over yet, as both parties aren’t necessarily happy with this temporary solution. For the FBI, accessing the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters is crucial, but doesn’t solve its bigger problem: spying on encrypted communications or devices. Apple, on the other hand, is reportedly working on beefing up iPhone security. But for now, it has one other problem: the world knows there is a way to get peek at the data stored on an encrypted iPhone without knowing the PIN or password.
The FBI did not say whether it’ll share the vulnerability it discovered and successfully used on the San Bernardino iPhone 5c, with the help of an unnamed security company. But Apple might be able to use other legal cases that involve iPhones to force the Bureau to explain the hack. More →
Using the services of a security company familiar with the inner workings of iOS 9 and the iPhone, the FBI cracked Apple’s security features. The agency bypassed the San Bernardino iPhone’s encryption and was able to retrieve the data stored on the iPhone using a mysterious technique that rendered phone’s the PIN protection useless.
As much as it would obviously like to, Apple can’t force the FBI to disclose the security hole, which means others could use a similar hack to break into iPhones in the future until Apple discovers the vulnerability and patches it. More →
The FBI has for the time being given up on its quest to force Apple to write a separate “GovtOS” to help law enforcement officials bypass the iPhone’s security protocols. Although the agency succeeded in finding a way to hack into the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, it will not get to set a precedent where it can order tech companies to write software that will break their own products’ security.
As Apple explained this week, this is a case that the FBI and Department of Justice should have never pursued and I’d like to think that the government has learned some important lessons from this fiasco… though I’m not holding my breath. More →