You must remember the long and tedious battle between Federal Bureau of Investigation and iPhone manufacturer firm Apple over unlocking of an iPhone owned by the terrorist involved in the San Bernardino mass shooting around two years back. In that particular case, Apple flatly refused to provide feds access to the data and the FBI had to pay more than a million dollar to an Israeli mobile forensics firm Cellebrite to unlock the shooter’s iPhone 5c.
It seems like the feds won’t need to plead Apple to unlock its phones anymore because of the breakthrough findings of Cellebrite. As per the Israeli firm, its new hacking tool would unlock just about any iPhone available in the market that runs on iOS 5 to iOS 11 including the newbie iPhone X. It is worth noting that Cellebrite develops digital forensics tools and programs for cell phones and its most popular product is the Universal Forensic Extraction Device or UFED that helps investigators extract all the passwords and data stored in a mobile phone.
Although the company hasn’t publicly announced that it can unlock iOS devices but Forbes reports that within the past few months Cellebrite has developed new techniques described in the literature called Advanced Unlocking and Extraction Services that allow it access to iOS 11.
This new technique is being marketed to law enforcement agencies and private forensic firms across the globe. Using the new techniques [PDF] it is possible to break the security of any Apple device including the iPad, iPad mini, iPad Pro, iPad touch apart from iPhone and all those devices that run on iOS 5 to iOS 11. Moreover, according to unnamed sources from the police forensics community, Cellebrite also can unlock iPhone 8 and iPhone X because both devices have somewhat similar security.
That’s not all, Cellebrite, an Israeli firm established in 1999, is capable of unlocking a variety of other devices including Google’s Android OS based smartphones developed by Samsung such as the Note and Galaxy series, HTC, Google Nexus, Alcatel, LG, Huawei, Motorola and ZTE to name a few. The literature from Cellebrite reads:
“Cellebrite Advanced Unlocking Services is the industry’s only solution for overcoming many types of complex locks on market-leading devices. This can determine or disable the PIN, pattern, password screen locks or passcodes on the latest Apple iOS and Google Android devices.”
Cellebrite’s findings might be ground-breaking and quite enticing for the law enforcement authorities but it is definitely troubling for Apple customers as it can cause a variety of privacy issues. It is certain that hundreds of millions of Apple users will be at risk but we also know that Apple is quick to bounce back and has a reputation of releasing back-to-back software updates and patches for every new bug and vulnerability. Therefore, we can recommend Apple users to remain alert and update their devices as soon as possible to secure their devices.