Thursday 19 January 2017

The FBI doesn't know how its new iPhone hack works

Daniel Anderson

Published 29/04/2016 | 10:15

iPhone 5C
iPhone 5C

The FBI reportedly paid over $1 million for a way to get around the security of an iPhone 5c handset but doesn't understand how it works

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It has been big news over the last few weeks that the FBI looked for Apple's help to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. The tech giant said no and the government agency sought out another route - by buying a hack for a sum as high as $1.3 million.

The story continues today as information is continuing to emerge, including the fact that the actual sum paid was a good bit less. The latest report from Reuters suggests it was around $1 million, which is still a lot of money to be spent on something highly illegal.

And it also turns out that the FBI won't be telling Apple how the exploit works, and that's partly because they don't know themselves! Despite having a mechanism to unlock any iPhone 5c, the agency didn't buy the right to the technical details of the system. Basically they bought a magic key that they can't figure out.

It's a bit terrifying that an outside contractor can give an organisation like the FBI something that they're unable to understand, and it's just a glimpse at the kinds of material which is passed back and forth in the hacking community. After shelling out that amount of cash for this solution, the agency has yet to admit to finding any useful information on the hacked phone, or anything to help further the investigation.

The case continues, and you can be sure you're going to hear a lot more about it in the future.

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