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FBI: Newfound iPhone Unlocking Technique Won’t Work On Newer Devices

FBI: Newfound iPhone Unlocking Technique Won’t Work On Newer Devices

by Elliot MarasApril 8, 2016

The technique the FBI used to unlock an Apple iPhone used in the San Bernardino, Calif. terror attack cannot be used on new devices, FBI Director James Comey told students at Kenyon College in Ohio recently, according to

Comey did not reveal the process the FBI used to unlock the phone, but he said it would not work on the 6S or the 5S. He said the tool only works on a “narrow slice of phones.”

Will The Technique Be Revealed?

Comey was noncommittal regarding Apple’s request to reveal the method the bureau used to unlock the phone. He said he is concerned about the FBI losing the access it currently possesses.

Since announcing its success unlocking the iPhone last month, speculation about the method has focused on an “IP Box” tool that emerged last spring. The tool latches onto an iPhone’s power circuitry and enters PIN numbers over USB. The tool retails for under $300.

When the tool detects an incorrect guess, it cuts the power to the phone’s logic board before the guess is recorded, which defeats the 10-try limit.

Some believe Apple has patched the vulnerability in older iPhones with iOS 8.1.1. Because the iPhone 5c is believed to run iOS 9, the FBI has chosen either a different method or has found an unreported software vulnerability.

The iPhone 5S manages PIN guesses in the hardware Secure Enclave, which neutralizes an attack.

Comey said he is confident both the FBI and the third party that provided the unlocking technique could keep it secret if government officials decide they want it to remain so, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Also read: FBI tests its new phone unlocking technique on other devices

FBI/Apple Conflict Subsides

The FBI’s announcement last week that it found a way to open the phone ended for the moment a legal fight with Apple about whether the government could force the company to write software that would help investigators open the phone and examine its data.

The FBI is using its newfound ability to crack the San Bernardino terrorist iPhone to see if it can open other versions of the phone, CCN reported. The American Civil Liberties Union said the FBI is taking a chance that no other entity will discover the capability. Government officials said it could take months for the FBI to decide whether and how to disclose the security gap.

Featured image from Pexels.

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