The iPhone can be cracked, and Apple gave iCloud data, so why is the FBI on its case?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

On Monday, the Attorney General William Barr put Apple in hot water by demanding at a dedicated press conference that it should provide more "substantive assistance" to law enforcement when it comes to encryption. 

The case in question is the iPhone of radicalized Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani who killed three Americans at the Pensacola Naval Air Station back in December as an act of terrorism while in training.

The Saudi national was killed by a sheriff deputy but his iPhone(s) lived to tell the eventual tale of radicalization and Apple drew the line where it usually does - at providing a backdoor for law enforcement to crack his access password faster. Its arguments against have always been that providing a backdoor will open a Pandora's Box of exploits which malicious actors can use to gain access to everyone's iPhone. 

As a company that prides itself on its privacy record and refusal to turn the customer into the product by providing free services and then using the mined personal data to create revenue, Apple wants to stay on its customers' good side. 

The Attorney General, however, might have tried to co-opt President Trump in the revived crusade against encryption as, despite his personal relationship and consulting with Apple's CEO Tim Cook on tariffs against China and other matters, he tweeted the following yesterday:



Besides, it turned out that it had already provided "gigabytes of information" such as "account information and transactional data for multiple accounts" and even the shooter's "iCloud backups." In a statement, Apple argued that:


Does Apple have a point when it comes to iPhone encryption cracking?


Actually, it does. Law enforcement at all levels, be it federal, state, county, or local, has access to some pretty impressive technology to aid in apprehending suspects through the course of an investigation.

Starting with the Stingray machines of yesteryear that works by mimicking a cell site, allowing investigators to intercept phone calls and text messages, and ending with the Israeli's Celebrite code crackers of today, it has never been easier to intercept messages or crack iPhones. 

In fact, this is what the Celebrite Premium subscription level advertises right now.


Last year, the company said that it has developed a new version of the Celebrite device that can extract information from iPhones faster and cheaper than ever before, reflecting the increased competition in the field. 

Back in 2015, when Apple's encryption red line came under public law enforcement scrutiny for the first time, FBI reportedly had to spend up to a million for the data from the San Bernardino shooters' iPhones which in the end didn't turn out as actionable as they wanted to present it.

Today, law enforcement can crack a perpetrator's iPhone provided they acquire certain equipment and/or software for about $15000 or less from companies like Greyshift or Celebrite. "We’ve got the tools to extract data from an iPhone 5 and 7 now," according to Andy Garrett, a CEO of a forensics company, referring to the iPhones belonging to the Pensacola shooter. "Everybody does," he commented for the Wall Street Journal.

That "everybody" turns out to be none other than a smorgasbord of government agencies, too, as Grayshift has sold its wares to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI. The Bureau has alone purchased $1 million worth of Grayshift devices, meaning that there are probably iPhone encryption crackers in each and every local office now.

Why is AG Barr ganging up on Apple to provide a backdoor into its iPhones and even evoking the national security sacred cow then? Because he wants that law enforcement do it faster and on the cheap, apparently, with all the privacy and surveillance repercussions that this entails. 

Will Apple budge? So far, with Tim Cook at the helm, it's been holding the fort, and, according to the New York Times, he is even preparing contingency plans to fight the FBI in court over the issue. That's not a guarantee for the future, so it'd be best that the government eases up on the requests for permanent iPhone backdoors. What do you think?

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19 Comments

1. gadgetpower

Posts: 297; Member since: Aug 23, 2019

If iphone can be bypass by third party then there’s no need to ask from apple to have backdoor. I’m glad apple stands to their customers and products regarding security and privacy.

5. Vancetastic

Posts: 1896; Member since: May 17, 2017

Are you ok with them scanning all of your iCloud photos? They do that, you know.

6. Tsepz_GP

Posts: 1226; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Then don’t keep your photos in iCloud, lol. That simple.

7. Vancetastic

Posts: 1896; Member since: May 17, 2017

Typical fanboy reply. (Psst..you avoided the topic, genius)

14. Tsepz_GP

Posts: 1226; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

I would say the same for Google. You have to be an idiot to put something in the cloud and think there isn’t some sort of scanning process that happens, you are essentially giving up your data, genius.

8. BL4NKF4CE

Posts: 161; Member since: Aug 06, 2017

So does Google with Google Photos...

9. Vancetastic

Posts: 1896; Member since: May 17, 2017

Two wrongs always make a right? If I decide to murder a guy because my neighbor did, is that ok?

10. mackan84

Posts: 692; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

He’s kinda asking which options do you have? Choose between killing your cool neighbor that’s also a peeping Tom. Or your autistic neighbor that has a “no trespassing” outside of the garden and copies other neighbors renovations ideas and tries to refine them to something better?

11. Vancetastic

Posts: 1896; Member since: May 17, 2017

I'm not talking about options. I just want to know if Apple users are ok with this. Privacy is privacy.

12. mackan84

Posts: 692; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Absolutely not. My belief is that anything in my interests that benefits these companies wallets, should also benefit mine. Kinda like YouTube, except we create a way to see people’s interests. When we start up a new smartphone we should get the option to get privacy or a monthly pay.

13. Vancetastic

Posts: 1896; Member since: May 17, 2017

Absolutely yes, unless I decide to share. I don't store photos on any cloud, and now I'm glad I don't. The point here, which is being lost, is that Apple doesn't want to provide the FBI with tools to unlock phones, which I agree with, yet they are ok with scanning your photos THAT YOU HAVE TRUSTED THEM WITH, without telling you, for child pornography and/or abuse. I am not willing to give them a pass on this.

15. Tsepz_GP

Posts: 1226; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Read the iCloud T&Cs, particularly this section: “Access to Your Account and Content” It’s all there. If you don’t want them to access your stuff, don’t put it up there.

17. Vancetastic

Posts: 1896; Member since: May 17, 2017

Which they recently revised to reflect this....but no one knows how long they've been doing it without your knowledge. Oh, and read. I don't use iCloud.

16. Tsepz_GP

Posts: 1226; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

He’s lost, it’s in the iCloud T&Cs, nothing is being hidden.

18. ssallen

Posts: 222; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

Except all of that is meaningless marketing drivel. Apple won't unlock the phone because it would illustrate that the iPhone can be breached. And it can be breached, my many, many security companies. The FBI just doesn't want to PAY for the access. They want Apple to provide a free back door they can use. This is all just meaningless marketing bulls**t, it actually benefits Apple.

2. mariosraptor

Posts: 192; Member since: Mar 15, 2012

Of it can be unlocked by any 3rd party tool then apple has to step up the game and make it uncrackable. If it can't make it uncrackable then it's no worst than those that can crack it.

3. Demo-jay

Posts: 98; Member since: Feb 13, 2018

Like i said, Apple will always refuse so it could find another backdoor to block, who ever gains access will be blocked out in future

19. ssallen

Posts: 222; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

There are already a ton of backdoors. The FBI doesn't want to pay for them and Apple is using the argument for free marketing.

4. cmdacos

Posts: 4393; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

At least Cheeto Don finally admitted in his tweet to blocking companies like Huawei to support Apple growth not that it wasn't well known. #supportcriminalswithApple

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