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.

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
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