If you happen to be an unscrupulous individual who doesn’t want law enforcement peeking into your iPhone, then you will be glad to know that Apple has just made things a lot harder. Forbes is reporting that Tim Cook’s company has managed to prevent the GrayKey hardware from hacking passcodes on iPhones running iOS 12 or above.
Atlanta-based Grayshift was set up by a former Apple security expert and U.S. Intelligence contractors. The company had developed the GrayKey hardware which was capable of essentially brute forcing its way into one of Apple’s iPhones which was locked and secured using a user-chosen passcode.
This type of technology had attracted interest from law enforcement entities all over the world due to the fact that Apple had previously fought against requests to build a backdoor capable of unlocking devices that were being investigated as part of crimes.
Obviously, the need for those devices to be unlocked still existed and Grayshift was happy to move into that void to secure contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement as well as the Secret Service. Apple had previously put barriers in the way of this process from working, including the introduction of the USB Restricted Mode which prevented USB-based devices from accessing the hardware under certain circumstances.
However, those barriers definitely didn’t prevent the process. Now, it seems that Apple has taken another leap forward in terms of privacy and protection by ensuring that the GrayKey hardware cannot fully access devices running iOS 12.0 or above.
It doesn’t entirely stop the hardware from going about its business but forensic experts have stated that GrayKey can only do a “partial extraction” on devices running iOS 12. This means that it cannot retrieve encrypted sensitive data and can only access unencrypted files and metadata, which may not actually have any real value to agencies that are paying to use this tool.
Given how seriously Apple takes privacy and security it is definitely going to be great news to hear that GrayKey cannot access the device as it previously could on older versions of firmware. However, the question is, how long before a workaround is put in place and Grayshift – or another business – figures out what preventions Apple has put in place and manages to bypass them?
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