Apple Inc. doesn’t seem interested in giving in to government orders and FBI demands to hack into the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist, Syed Rizwan Farook. However, cyber security researchers believe it is possible to hack into the device without help from Apple.
Apple help may not have been needed
Speaking to ABC News, the researchers said that it should be technically possible for the government to hack into the device with the use of acid, lasers and other very delicate instruments, but it could be painstakingly slow and extremely risky.
In the court filings last week, the Department of Justice requested a judge to compel Apple to assist FBI in opening the phone. “The phone may contain critical communications and data prior to and around the time of the shooting that, thus far: (1) has not been accessed; (2) may reside solely on the phone; and (3) cannot be accessed by any other means known to either the government or Apple,” the government said.
On Wednesday, Edward Snowden – former NSA contractor – said the third statement was not completely true, and mentioned a technique, which could be used for unilaterally hacking the device. Speaking at a virtual talk hosted by Johns Hopkins University, he said, “The problem is, the FBI has other means… They told the courts they didn’t, but they do.”
The method in question is ‘de-capping,’ and it involves removing and de-capsulating the phone’s memory chip to expose it to direct, microscopic scrutiny and exploitation. Four cyber security researchers told ABC that it is possible to crack the phone with this method.
“If you have physical possession of a device, there are any number of ways to extract its secrets,” one researcher said.
FBI: we did not screw-up
Meanwhile, FBI clarified that resetting San Bernardino Shooter’s Apple Inc. ID Password was not screwup. This was in response to the reports suggesting that without consulting law enforcement, the rogue elements within San Bernardino county reset the Apple ID password on the iPhone of the suspected shooter.
Federal investigators said that they were trying to obtain the information stored in Syed Rizwan Farook’s iCloud account for which they were working in co-operation with the San Bernardino county. Farook is a county employee, and is suspected to be involved in the December 2 attack.
The FBI said that on December 3 it discovered Farrok’s government-issued Apple Inc. iPhone 5c, and for the purpose of obtaining evidence related to the investigation it worked with the county’s IT staff. The FBI got immediate access to all backups, since the county had reset the iCloud password on the account.
However, the problem is that the last backup was on October 19 i.e. several weeks before Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, allegedly launched the attack.