Apple tweaks settings that police use to hack into iPhones

Angelica Greene
June 14, 2018

Apple Inc. announced a change to its iPhone default settings Wednesday that's meant to further secure user information from unauthorized access.

Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an open letter explaining the company's refusal to provide a security "backdoor" for law enforcement. Ironically, the big victor of this change will be companies like Cellebrite and GrayShift that make the cracking machines. Provided that the cops have physical access to a device, the $15,000 tool enables authorities to get their way inside, given a week or so of passcode guessing attempts.

The fix, however, may reignite a firestorm of words that occurred in 2016 between Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over accessing the iPhone of San Bernardino mass-shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.

In a statement, Apple said: "We're constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data".

Forensic companies that once employed machines to break through security provisions will now have only an hour to run code on the devices. The FBI ultimately contracted a third party to break into the phone.

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Apple has butted heads with law enforcement about unlocking iPhones before.

"It would be wrong to reduce hundreds of millions of iPhone users' security and privacy just to help law enforcement agencies, authoritarian regimes, and state-sponsored hackers crack into a few mobile phones".

Police and forensics officials in the USA are understood to be using a piece of kit called GrayKey, which takes around three to six days to work out a six digit passcode. "This is a really big vulnerability in Apple's phones", said Matthew D. Green, a professor of cryptography at Johns Hopkins University.

The FBI didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Maryland's state police has one, as do police departments in Portland, Oregon, and Rochester, Minnesota, according to records. That has helped solve a series of cases in recent months, including by getting into an iPhone to find videos of a suspect sexually assaulting a child. This has allowed law enforcement officials and others to easily gain access to pretty much any iPhone.

Other reports by GizPress

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