Earlier today, we reported that Apple has been under attack from various Law Enforcement agencies and Donald Trump for not unlocking the Florida naval base shooter’s iPhone. Apple noted that they won’t compromise the privacy and refused to help the FBI bypass the encryption.
However, it turns out that the FBI might already have a way to bypass the iPhone encryption. According to a piece published by Forbes, the FBI has already managed to retrieve data from an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The publication uncovered a search warrant addressed to Baris Ali Koch, who helped his brother convicted of hate crime escape the country. Forbes cross-checked with Koch’s lawyer who confirmed that his phone was locked and the feds weren’t given the passcode to unlock the device. According to the warrant, the FBI used a tool called GrayKey to grab data from Koch’s iPhone 11 Pro Max. Forbes pointed out that there’s no way to know for sure if GrayKey was used as the warrant notes that the software was used to perform a “forensic analysis.”
This warrants the question as to why Apple is being dragged through the mud if the authorities already have a tool to break the encryption. Forbes reached out to Senator Wyden who’s office confirmed that it has asked the Department of Justice to explain why it is making public demands for backdoors if it has already used the tool to access the newest iPhones.
Nicholas Weaver, researcher and lecturer at Berkely’s International Computer Science Institute told Forbes that the FBI’s strategy to strongarm Apple into helping them could just be “theatre.”
Basically, Apple made a safe where to change the combo you have to unlock the safe, and the FBI is saying ‘change the combo’ when they know full well you can’t change the combo without unlocking the safe first.
– Nicholas Weaver
FBI is not the first law enforcement agency in the US to use GrayKey to bypass encryption. Back in 2018, Motherboard reported that a number of local and regional police forces have already bought or are thinking of buying the tool. Not only that, but ICE and DEA also use a modified version of the tool to break the iPhone encryption.
At the time of writing, neither the DOJ nor the FBI has commented on the report.