The ability to break through the encryption Apple Inc. has on its gadgets is highly valued on the black market. The start of this year saw the makers of the iPhone go head-to-head with the FBI in a privacy scandal that polarized the public. Choosing not to undermine their own protection measures, CEO Tim Cook and company outright refused to take steps to unlock the iPhone of an alleged terrorist.
Weeks of going back and forth proved the FBI was making no progress in convincing Apple to hack itself. The U.S. government then turned to spending more than $1 million in order to find some other way to access the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone.
Did Apple really lose to FBI?
For a while it looked as though Apple could have walk away having put the government “in its place.” However, the FBI succeeded in its efforts and swept the rug from right under Apple’s feet. Regardless, the U.S. tech giant still recognizes the event as a victory. To Apple, the steep prices that iPhone hacks go for say a lot about its iPhone security.
“As probably most of you know, there is a black market for software vulnerabilities,” reports Ivan Kristic. He stands as Apple Inc.’s lead in architecture and security engineering. “Once in a while some of the prices on the black market become known.”
James Comey, an FBI director, cited the money spent by the Bureau on hiring third-parties to hack Apple’s encryption this year to be at least $1.3 million.
Prices for surpassing the encryption of other tech firms are not usually as steep as iOS cracks. For software like Windows and Android, the cost is usually “tens of thousands of dollars, sometime even $100,000.” Kristic explains.
A technique to exploit a key iPhone vulnerability was sold for $500,000 around two years ago. The report was covered by New York Times. More reports have emerged since then proving that the price of an iPhone security breach tends to hover around the $1 million mark.
Apple says high cost equals high security
Apple Inc. does not seem unsettled by this. The firm insists that such prices verify the intensity of its security. Its encryption is a lot more unique and therefore extremely difficult to hack. Their rarity, as well as the enormous effort that is needed to hack them, makes iOS breaches black gold of the underground market.
“What you are seeing now is the result of a decade of our best work in protecting our users,” Kristic reported.
Apple takes pride in its gadget defenses. The company says that it sees security as a design philosophy and instills it in every aspect of its software. The heavy cost of an iPhone hack is really a bit of an achievement.
In April, the iPhone maker publicly claimed to be the most secure tech company in the world. This year’s WWDC saw Krstic tell developers that there has been no major virus or malware on iOS in 9 years.
There is a lot we learned about Apple Inc. in 2016. Much of it has been unpleasant. However, the hefty bounties placed on iOS exploitations come as an assurance. When compared to other tech firms, they prove Apple’s security measures trump those of its leading rivals.