US Officials Claim to Have Cracked the iPhone Without Apple’s Help

By Bill Toulas / May 19, 2020

Back in January, US President Donald Trump was accusing Apple of being ungrateful over everything that he has done to support the company's business. Apple did so by not assisting the law authorities in the country unlock a terrorist’s iPhones. Now, Federal law enforcement officials have announced that they managed to crack the devices anyway, and they took the chance to launch their criticism against the tech maker once again. The FBI stated that their technicians cracked the iPhone 5 and iPhone 7 Plus devices belonging to Mohammed Alshamrani, the terrorist who was responsible for the “Pensacola shooting” in December 2019.

FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that they received effectively no help from Apple. Although he hasn’t clarified exactly how their experts managed to crack the devices, he did make it clear that they haven’t found a fix to their “broader Apple problem.” It means that they still have no way to tap into the iPhone’s memory easily and decrypt data. Attorney General William Barr added that Apple’s stance, in this case, proves how dangerous these business and marketing decisions can be for public safety and national security. So, it’s the classic debate again, based on poorly understood matters of privacy and security.

Apple didn’t pull any punches, and they responded by saying that this is just another case of the authorities trying to convince the company to plant backdoors on its products - which won’t happen. As they stated, they already provided iCloud backups, account information, and transactional data to the law enforcement authorities, which is all they had on the actor. The company is not interested in protecting terrorists. Still, it will not sacrifice the privacy and data security of their entire customer base just because the FBI wants to have an easy way in.

There are efforts done behind the scenes - as well as on the front - to exert pressure. Nobody knows if the law enforcement is honest about the unlocking of the older iPhone devices, or if they had this capability since the beginning but wanted to push their encryption backdoor agenda. At the beginning of this year, a published NIST testing document revealed that the US Department of Justice could actually tap into the information that is stored on the particular iPhone models by using products from “GrayShift,” albeit this concerned unencrypted data. That said, the recent press conference could be a case of cracking Apple's encryption, or yet another reminder that the authorities aren’t giving up on their plan to introduce backdoors.

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