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The FBI can’t hack the iPhone 6s

Published Apr 7th, 2016 6:50AM EDT
iPhone 6s FBI Hack

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.

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In fact, all iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s models are equally safe from the hack.

FBI Director James Comey told reporters on Wednesday that the agency had purchased a tool from a third party to unlock the San Bernardino iPhone, CNN reports. He also revealed that the tool only works on a “narrow slice of phones,” that does not include the newest Apple models or the iPhone 5s.

The San Bernardino iPhone is actually an iPhone 5c that runs iOS 9. Given Comey’s statements, it’s likely that the attack only works on 32-bit devices. Starting with the iPhone 5s, Apple included a 64-bit chip in the iPhone, which is harder to crack.

As for the team of experts who created the tool, Comey said he trusts them. “The people we bought this from, I know a fair amount about them, and I have a high degree of confidence that they are very good at protecting it, and their motivations align with ours,” he said.

Comey would not reveal additional details about the hack to reporters, but the FBI informed at least two senators about the tool. According to National Journal, the FBI has already told Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) about the method used, while Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) should also be briefed soon. Feinstein and Burr are working on a new bill that wants to limit the use of encryption in tech.

Comey isn’t as interested in informing Apple about the hack though it’s likely the company will figure it all out by itself. “We tell Apple, then they’re going to fix it, then we’re back where we started from,” he said. “We may end up there, we just haven’t decided yet.”

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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