Unknown flaw found by hackers helped the FBI unlock dead terrorist's Apple iPhone 5c

Unknown flaw found by hackers helped the FBI unlock dead terrorist's Apple iPhone 5c
It ended up being a major coincidence. On the day that the FBI announced that it had finally unlocked the Apple iPhone 5c used by deceased terrorist Syed Farook, a contract was discovered online. This contract appeared to show that Israeli software company Cellebrite had been paid $15,000 for services done for the FBI. Putting it all together, it appeared that it was Cellebrite that cracked the code for the FBI, allowing them to look inside the terrorist's handset for evidence and clues. But as it turned out, Cellebrite was not involved at all.

According to the Washington Post, a group of professional hackers approached the FBI with talk about a previously unknown security flaw in the iPhone. This group built hardware around this flaw that allowed the FBI to crack open the four-digit passcode on Farook's iPhone 5c, which runs iOS 9. This was accomplished without setting off the security feature that automatically wipes the memory of an iPhone after ten unsuccessful attempts to enter the correct passcode.

The FBI was approached by hackers who discovered an unknown flaw on the iPhone 5c

The FBI was approached by hackers who discovered an unknown flaw on the iPhone 5c

It was that safety feature that had the FBI worried when it realized that it could not break into Farook's handset. With law enforcement concerned that the terrorist might have kept the names of any accomplices to the San Bernardino shootings on the phone, or stored on it a list of other potential targets for attack, it became imperative for the FBI to get it open. A Court Order demanded that Apple open the device, but Apple refused. For it to open the phone, it would have to develop a new iOS based operating system dubbed Govt. OS whose sole reason for being would be to unlock the phone. But Apple was concerned that once the code was written, it would fall into the wrong hands. That would mean that any personal information stored on any iPhone on the planet would no longer be safe.

Ironically, while Apple won the battle and never developed a special OS to open up Farook's iPhone, it lost the war. Unless Apple finds out how Farook's iPhone was unlocked and sends out a patch to close this flaw, Apple is in the situation it was afraid of in the first place. As it turns out, the FBI paid the hackers a lump sum to crack the passcode,  and also create software to prevent the phone from automatically wiping its contents after ten unsuccessful passcode entries.

Apple is demanding to find out the flaw used by the hackers so that it can close this vulnerability before others get their hands on it. It is ironic in a way since now it is the FBI that has something that Apple wants, and Apple is using the court system to try to get the hack from the FBI. Before, it was the FBI using the courts in an attempt to get something from Apple.

source: WashingtonPost

Related phones

iPhone 5c
  • Display 4.0" 640 x 1136 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A6, Dual-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB
  • Battery 1507 mAh(10h 3G talk time)

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17 Comments

1. Derekjeter

Posts: 1455; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Is anybody else tired of this BS story??? I know cell phone news are slow today, but no need to post the same article 20 times.

2. Jimrod

Posts: 1605; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

At the end of the day, if it's this much effort to crack into the phone then 99.99% of us have nothing to worry about. If the FBI are looking into you that much that they need to break into your phone the chances are you're probably up to no good anyway.

3. AlikMalix unregistered

"Ironically, while Apple won the battle and never developed a special OS to open up Farook's iPhone, it lost the war. " I think it's backwards.. Apple lost the battle regarding the 5c, but as we know now, the newer models dont have this vulnerability and it takes virtually a couple of days from when apple discovers the flaw to update all the phones with a patch. I believe the fact that apple stood its ground against the mighty FBI (that seem to have no regard for the amendment rights of innocent people), even after dirty play from the government during "the battle" - Apple did in fact won the war - because if apple caved, it would have set the precedent for unlimited requests for just about anybody the government thinks it "needs" to access... But that's just my opinion, you dont have to agree...

4. Dingy_cellar_dweller

Posts: 339; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

How is apple going to patch its os when it wasn't involved in the process, maybe they should of played ball and now apple may have being able to fix it, unless they knew all the time about this little vulnerability.

5. AlikMalix unregistered

Every company that has even one line of code in their products consistently finds faults and patches them. It's not whether "IF" apple finds this hole, but "WHEN" it does it will patch it. It may not be even while they're looking for it, but the fix might come with the next update that always brings big and software fixes along. It does not have to be involved in the case to find a bug in it's own software. They already mentioned that they cant use the same method on newer phones and it's limited to 5C and older devices (look up recent drug dealers iPhone unlocking news). That means the new devices already have written code that's different from the 5C version of iOS. Every manufacturer, every program, every device gets updates that ALWAYS include software bug fixes...

16. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

It's certainly an if, because there are lots of holes that will never get found. Thus "when" is never going to happen because they create new firmware every year and every year, since the new firmware contains the foundation of the old, they drag those same holes into the new release. So its not even about "if" or "when" because actually neither may happen.

17. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Newer iphone have an embeded security hardware thats the difference mostly.

7. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

they should help them in the first place.... they hack their own system, get everything from that i5c, and close the flaw they found via update.. that way it will be less drama, no 3rd party involved, and iOS users security is save.. but now they didnt even know the flaw, and still cant do anything to fix it,.

8. AlikMalix unregistered

Ok, now listen how the real world of FBI works. They cannot have Apple obtain information on that device in private and give it to FBI - because there's possibility for someone at Apple to scrutinize with "the evidence" and even if apple is all legit - it would not be admissible in court because FBI was not the one overseeing the process of recovering the data. This is "WHY" FBI wanted apple to give THEM the software to unlock the iPhone or obtain the information themselves. Unfortunately the government is not something you can trust with this "TOOL" (to be fair, there's no entity in the world that can keep this "TOOL" safe from either black market or other governments), because this "TOOL" will give you access to ANYONE's private data, some of which can be worth in Millions of Dollars and be deemed a hot item to gain. Apple even stated that it doesn't have this "TOOL" (aka GovOS) to give to FBI and wont make one, because like I said above, Apple doesnt trust itself to keep it safe if it makes it, let alone give it to the most branched-out and arguably unorganized entity - the government. I know things in this world looks small when you live on Forums trolling iPhones all day, but they're not as simplistic and "easy" as it seems from your point of view. (no offence)...

18. cncrim

Posts: 1573; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Ok, Apple help them 80 times before, what make you think they will stop after Apply comply with this one?

19. cncrim

Posts: 1573; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Apple* Apply

12. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2277; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

Actually, PA is correct. Apple did not want the FBi to gain access to the device...they want a meeting with them at court and they still don't know how the fbi got access, so patching is irrelevant as this wasn't influenced by the FBI's decision. Don't be so insecure when you see the comment "*your favourite company* lost".

6. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3092; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

Would be good for jailbreak.

9. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Apple only care about their reputation on security but miss out big on compassionate ground.

10. Totse2k15

Posts: 475; Member since: Feb 11, 2014

Apple got the money, know how to used it, noobs. Money buys everything these days. "FBI paid the hackers a lump sum to crack the passcode, and also create software to prevent the phone from automatically wiping its contents after ten unsuccessful passcode entries."

11. darkkjedii

Posts: 30836; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Apple: how did you find this flaw? FBI: take 10 guesses.

20. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Well I hope they found some important info to help keep us safe from terrorists.

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