A group of three news outlets, including Gannett, the Associated Press and Vice Media, filed a lawsuit today against the FBI on grounds relating to the bureau's decision to keep its method of hacking into San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook's iPhone a secret. The news organizations are looking for more information about how exactly the FBI entered the iPhone, what "outside party" helped with the process, and how much the government paid for it (via USA Today).

Gannett, the AP, and Vice Media have each sought details on the hack under the Freedom of Information Act, but the FBI denied the requests, arguing that "revealing the records would imperil its enforcement efforts." Now the organizations are teaming up and asking the court to force the FBI to release the requested information.

iphone5c
While the security drama swirls, University of Cambridge researcher Sergei Skorobogatov has released proof countering the FBI's claim that it couldn't get into Farook's iPhone without Apple's help. In his report (via Engadget), Skorobagatov detailed his process in bypassing the passcode retry counter of an iPhone 5c running iOS 9, which he said "does not require any expensive and sophisticated equipment."

This was achieved by desoldering the NAND Flash chip of a sample phone in order to physically access its connection to the SoC and partially reverse engineering its proprietary bus protocol. The process does not require any expensive and sophisticated equipment. All needed parts are low cost and were obtained from local electronics distributors. By using the described and successful hardware mirroring process it was possible to bypass the limit on passcode retry attempts. This is the first public demonstration of the working prototype and the real hardware mirroring process for iPhone 5c.

After removing the NAND from the iPhone -- which requires "a temperature above 300 ºC...due to heavy heat sinking of the main PCB" -- he created a backup of it and placed it onto a custom-built, special test board. To continue the NAND mirroring process, following a successful creation and verification of the backup copy, the original chip is placed back into the iPhone 5c, where the researcher entered six passcode attempts, and then power cycled the device. In total, the process takes 90 seconds each time, meaning the true password could feasibly be discovered in "less than two days."

Once the phone is powered up and the screen is slid the passcode can be entered six times until the delay of one minute is introduced again. Then the process of mirroring from backup can be repeated again and again until the correct passcode is found. On average each cycle of mirroring for six passcode attempts takes 90 seconds. Hence, a full scan of all possible 4-digit passcodes will take about 40 hours or less than two days.

The fight between Apple and the FBI began earlier in the year when Apple refused to help the government unlock Farook's iPhone 5c under the belief that it could set a fearful precedent for security and privacy moving forward. The FBI didn't know what could potentially be on the device, but believed that any information gathered from it would potentially help move the case of the San Bernardino shooting forward in meaningful ways.

Although that particular case is over, FBI director James Comey said that he expects litigation over the encryption of mobile devices to continue, as encryption is "essential tradecraft" of terrorist organizations like ISIS. Technology and security have intersected more and more as smartphones grow more popular, with Comey also stating that WhatsApp's new end-to-end encryption was already "affecting the criminal work [of the FBI] in huge ways."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

HappyDude20 Avatar
81 months ago
This is absolutely great that the news organizations brought this up to them and is practically calling them out on their bs.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
soupcan Avatar
81 months ago
Round 2: FINISH HIM.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Weaselboy Avatar
81 months ago
I was never a fan of the FBI forcing Apple to break their OS. I am not sure that FBI has any responsibility to divulging how they finally broke into the phone. And why would the new organization want to know the hacking approach? Are they planning a hack of their own?
It will be interesting to see how it plays out. The way Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests work is everything is presumed to be subject to disclosure unless the info falls under specific exemptions in the act. It sounds like the FBI is relying on the exemption quoted below. I guess it will be the court's job to decide if the exemption applies in this case.

Quote from FOIA FAQ here ('https://www.foia.gov/faq.html#exemptions'):
7(E). Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
OriginalClone Avatar
81 months ago
Arguments start in 3..2..1..
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thisisnotmyname Avatar
81 months ago
It's interesting how quickly Vice is gaining prominence. My introduction to them was the series of "travel" documentaries they did (definitely worth a watch if you haven't seen them). They do seem to have a distinct viewpoint and it shows in their coverage but I generally like their work. Much more interesting to me than what a lot of the traditional media is doing.

And good for these groups in pushing for access to the information, it's been sketchy how the FBI has been avoiding federal rules of disclosures in this case.

edit: this reminds me that we haven't heard anything with the release of the iPhone 7 about improvements to the secure enclave and firmware flashing. I wonder whether any steps were taken to reduce or eliminate their ability to apply updates without the consent of the device owner.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
2457282 Avatar
81 months ago
I was never a fan of the FBI forcing Apple to break their OS. I am not sure that FBI has any responsibility to divulging how they finally broke into the phone. And why would the new organization want to know the hacking approach? Are they planning a hack of their own?
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iPhone Measure Height

Newer iPhones Allow You to Measure Someone's Height Instantly — Here's How

Saturday December 3, 2022 10:23 am PST by
iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, and iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models feature a LiDAR Scanner next to the rear camera that can be used to measure a person's height instantly in Apple's preinstalled Measure app. To measure a person's height, simply open the Measure app, point your iPhone at the person you want to measure, and make sure they are visible on the screen from...
iOS 16

When Will iOS 16.2 Be Released?

Friday December 2, 2022 2:13 pm PST by
Apple in late October began testing iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 updates, providing betas to both developers and public beta testers. As of now, we've had four total betas, with the fourth beta having been released earlier this week. iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 are expected before the end of the year, and we thought we'd try to narrow down the launch timeline. With only four betas released since...
14 vs 16 inch mbp m2 pro and max feature 1

Major RAM Upgrade Coming to Next-Generation MacBook Pro

Friday December 2, 2022 2:03 am PST by
The next-generation MacBook Pro models could feature faster RAM, according to a recent report from a reliable source. MacRumors Forums member "Amethyst," who accurately revealed details about the Mac Studio and Studio Display before those products were announced, recently provided information about Apple's upcoming 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. The new machines are expected to feature...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

iOS 16.2 for iPhone Launching This Month With These 8 New Features

Thursday December 1, 2022 8:44 am PST by
Apple plans to publicly release iOS 16.2 for the iPhone in mid-December, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The update remains in beta testing for now, with at least eight new features and changes already uncovered so far. iOS 16.2 introduces a number of new features, including Apple's new whiteboard app Freeform, two new Lock Screen widgets for Sleep and Medications, the ability to hide...
apple ar headset concept 1

Kuo: Apple Headset Shipments Potentially Delayed Until Second Half of 2023

Sunday December 4, 2022 7:38 am PST by
Mass shipments of Apple's long-rumored AR/VR headset may be delayed until the second half of 2023 due to unspecified "software-related issues," according to the latest information shared today by tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple headset render by Ian Zelbo Kuo said mass shipments of components for the headset are still likely to begin in the first half of 2023, but he believes that mass...
Emergency SOS via Satellite iPhone YT

Apple's iPhone 14 Emergency SOS via Satellite Feature Saves Stranded Man in Alaska

Thursday December 1, 2022 4:37 pm PST by
With the launch of iOS 16.1, Apple rolled out a Emergency SOS via Satellite, which is designed to allow iPhone 14 owners to contact emergency services using satellite connectivity when no cellular or WiFi connection is available. The feature was put to the test in Alaska today, when a man became stranded in a rural area. In the early hours of the morning on December 1, Alaska State Troopers ...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Pro Rumored to Have These 5 Exclusive Features

Saturday December 3, 2022 10:55 am PST by
While we're still around nine months away from Apple unveiling the iPhone 15 lineup, rumors already suggest that the higher-end Pro models will have even more exclusive features than usual compared to the standard models next year. There are currently at least five features rumored to be exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro models:A17 chip: iPhone 15 Pro models will be equipped with an A17 Bionic...
top stories 3dec2022

Top Stories: M2 Max Benchmark Leak, iPhone 15 Camera Rumor, and More

Saturday December 3, 2022 6:00 am PST by
With Black Friday and Cyber Week shopping events winding down and the calendar flipping over to December, our attention is starting to turn to 2023 and all of the Apple news we're expecting to see. This week saw an alleged benchmark leak for an "M2 Max" chip expected to make an appearance in upcoming Macs like the MacBook Pro early next year, as well as fresh rumors about the iPhone 15...
android apple fix rcs

Google Again Criticizes Apple for Not Adopting RCS for Messages App: 'Their Texting is Stuck in the 1990s'

Friday December 2, 2022 10:54 am PST by
Google is continuing on with its attempt to convince Apple to adopt the RCS messaging standard, publishing a new "it's time for RCS" blog post. Promoted heavily by Google, RCS or Rich Communication Services is a messaging standard that is designed to replace the current SMS messaging standard. It provides support for higher resolution photos and videos, audio messages, and bigger file sizes, ...
maxresdefault

Can't Get an iPhone 14 Pro? Here's Why You Should Wait for the iPhone 15 Ultra

Monday December 5, 2022 11:44 am PST by
Due to production issues at Apple supplier factories in China, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are backordered and basically out of stock at every store. If you were planning to gift or receive an iPhone 14 Pro model for the holidays and didn't already get one, you're basically out of luck because they're gone until late December. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more ...