'GrayKey' iPhone Unlocking Box Used by Law Enforcement Shown Off in Photos

Last week, news of a previously-unknown iPhone unlocking device called GrayKey surfaced, and today, MalwareBytes shared photos and additional information about the product, which is designed for law enforcement officials.

Created by a company named Grayshift, GrayKey is a small, portable gray box equipped with dual Lightning cables.


Two iPhones can be connected to the GrayKey at once, and need to be connected for about two minutes to install proprietary software that's designed to guess the passcode for an iPhone. Once the software is installed, it will work to crack the passcode, a process that can take as little as a few hours for a short passcode or several days for a longer six-digit passcode.

Once the GrayKey software has cracked the passcode, it'll be displayed right on the screen of the iPhone. The iPhone can then be plugged back into the GrayKey to download all of the data on the iPhone, including the unencrypted contents of the Keychain, which can then be accessed using a computer.


Based on screenshots, the GrayKey can crack modern iPhones running modern versions of iOS. It works with the iPhone X and iOS 11.2.5, the version of iOS that was likely available when the screenshots were captured. It probably also works with iOS 11.2.6, unless Apple has managed to block it in the latest operating system update.


Grayshift presumably designed the GrayKey for law enforcement professionals, and it's relatively expensive. A $15,000 option requires internet connectivity and is geofenced to a specific location once set up, while a $30,000 option requires no internet connection and can be used anywhere.

MalwareBytes worries that the portable version of the GrayKey could easily fall into the wrong hands. It uses two-factor authentication, but given that people "often write passwords on stickies and put them on their monitors," it's possible the token could be kept in the same location as the device.

What happens if the GrayKey becomes commonplace in law enforcement? The cheaper model isn't much of a danger if stolen--unless it's stolen prior to setup--but at 4″x 4″x 2″, the unlimited model could be pocketed fairly easily, along with its token, if stored nearby. Once off-site, it would continue to work. Such a device could fetch a high price on the black market, giving thieves the ability to unlock and resell stolen phones, as well as access to the high-value data on those phones.

How the GrayKey works is not known, but it's believed to be using some sort of jailbreaking process that could damage iPhones in some way. It's also not known how the GrayKey device itself is protecting data that's stored on it, and whether or not the data could be remotely accessed by hackers.

It's also unknown who Grayshift is selling the devices to. It's possible that sales are limited to law enforcement officials in the United States, but it's also possible that it's being offered abroad. Other devices of this type have slipped out of the hands of law enforcement and have become widely available, so the same could happen with the GrayKey.

Apple is continually working to fix the kinds of exploits used by devices like the GrayKey, so it's possible whatever mechanism the box uses will be fixed in a future update. The average iPhone owner likely doesn't need to worry about the GrayKey, but as MalwareBytes points out, it is troublesome knowing such a device could fall into the hands of malicious entities.

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

(View all)
Avatar
34 months ago

The average iPhone owner likely doesn't need to worry about the GrayKey

Ah, yes, the "something to hide" fallacy.

Apple, please do what you can to protect us from this.
Score: 100 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
34 months ago
Imagine buying one and one software update later it doesn't work anymore. :D
Score: 67 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
34 months ago
Steve would’ve approved of the design.

Does it just come in space grey?

Or gold / silver too?
Score: 62 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
34 months ago
$30.000 is peanuts for Apple, they just buy one and before you know it iOS is patched, if not already.
Score: 60 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
34 months ago
This is why you don't use 6-digit passcodes but instead a complex alphanumeric one.
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
34 months ago

$30.000 is peanuts for Apple, they just buy one and before you know it iOS is patched, if not already.

Apple: "Hi yes I need to order two GrayKey's."

GrayKey: "Okay and where are we shipping these?"

Apple: "Cuperti--"

GrayKey: "Click."
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First iPhone 12 Mini Hands-On Video Surfaces [Update: Video Pulled]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max aren't set to be available until November 13, but a Romanian YouTuber got his hands on the iPhone 12 mini and showed it off today, offering a size comparison between the iPhone 12 and the 12 mini along with going over some of the device's features. The iPhone 12 mini is identical to the iPhone 12 in design and functionality, but it has a...

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...

Apple Releases First macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 Beta to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today seeded a new macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 beta to developers for testing purposes, with the new beta replacing the existing macOS Big Sur 11 beta 10 update that was released two weeks ago. The macOS Big Sur beta can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center and once the appropriate profile is installed, subsequent betas will be available through the Software Update mechanism in...

iPhone 12 Models Might Support Reverse Charging of Future Apple Accessories According to FCC Filing

Tuesday October 27, 2020 6:25 pm PDT by
iPhone 12 models could have an inactive wireless charging feature for accessories, according to an FCC filing discovered by VentureBeat's Jeremy Horwitz. In the filing, Apple said that 2020 iPhones support a wireless charging function that will seemingly be enabled for at least one future Apple accessory:In addition to being able to be charged by a desktop WPT charger (puck), 2020 iPhones...