Following yesterday’s news that the FBI bought information from independent hackers to assist it with unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone, a new report from Reuters reveals that the company the FBI acquired the procedures from retains sole legal ownership of the method, although it is unclear whether this “company” represents the “independent hackers” referred to in the earlier report. Either way, Obama administration sources have indicated that this makes it “highly unlikely” that the government will be able to disclose the technique. Technology security flaws are ordinarily reviewed by the White House to determine which should be made public, as part of a procedure known as the Vulnerabilities Equities Process — but sources note that the FBI would not even be permitted to submit the method to the White House for consideration without the permission of the private company that owns the technique. Rob Knake, a former White House staffer who was previously responsible for managing the process, noted that the FBI likely doesn’t even know the details of the technique other than that it successfully unlocked the iPhone in question, and added that the Vulnerabilities Equities Process had been created in 2010 to handle situations where government employees invent their own methods for circumventing security. The process was not designed for “a world of commoditized exploitation” by private companies, and that the government cannot “force companies to share the methods that they are trying to sell,” nor can they be prevented from buying technology from those companies.
A new Washington Post story claims a group of independent hackers sold the FBI information that helped crack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, contradicting earlier reports that Israeli tech firm Cellebrite was the company behind the hack. People familiar with the matter said a group of researchers who specialize in hunting for vulnerabilities in software sold knowledge of a previously unknown iOS flaw to the FBI for a one-time flat fee. The information was used to create a new piece of hardware that allowed the FBI repeatedly guess the iPhone’s four-digit PIN without triggering the security feature that erases all the data on the phone.
Dozens of users have taken to Apple’s customer support page to complain about problems with call quality when using their iPhone SE over Bluetooth. Those pairing their device with car Bluetooth systems are reporting scratchy and distorted audio when using their phone to make calls. Some also reported poor audio quality when using their phones for GPS navigation in the car, and one user said his Jawbone Bluetooth headset experienced similar audio problems when connected to the iPhone SE. The phone audio quality is fine when not paired to Bluetooth, and the connectivity issue doesn’t seem to affect music streaming over Bluetooth.
While still not publicly confirming that it was the firm that helped the FBI crack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, Cellebrite has offered to help a father gain access to his deceased son’s iPhone 6, CNN reports. Leonardo Fabbretti said his 13-year-old son Dama had given him Touch ID fingerprint access to the phone before his death from bone cancer, but that the phone now required his son’s passcode to unlock after a restart. Fabbretti asked Apple for help unlocking the phone, but was told the company couldn’t access the device without his son’s passcode. After hearing the story, Cellebrite reached out to Fabbretti, and on Friday a forensic analyst delivered a promising update during a meeting in northern Italy. “They were able to download the directories with the iPhone’s content, but there is still work to be done in order to access the files,” Fabbretti said.
A new report from The Wall Street Journal reveals that Apple’s history in working with the FBI goes back as far as 2008, when the company reportedly not only assisted the FBI in accessing the data on a locked iPhone, but actually had its lawyers assist in drafting the court order to do so. While the government reportedly had no means of compelling Apple to cooperate back then — other than the All Writs act used in the more current case — Apple basically voluntarily offered its assistance on the basis of the government providing the necessary paperwork. The case in question was a horrific child molestation case where the FBI needed evidence from the perpetrator’s iPhone, which was taken to Apple’s headquarters in California by a New York State Police investigator. There, the iPhone passcode was bypassed while the investigator watched. The case contrasts sharply with Apple’s more recent standoff with the FBI, but it’s also important to consider that 2008 model iPhone models did not encrypt data at all, nor provide any of the other advanced security features now commonplace on modern iPhone models, making for significantly different technical and ethical considerations.
FBI Director James Comey has revealed that the FBI purchased “a tool” from a private party to crack the San Bernardino iPhone, according to a report from CNN Money. Specifically, in formally announcing that litigation between the government and Apple has ended, Comey stated that “the government has purchased, from a private party, a way to get into that phone, 5C, running iOS 9.” Comey also added that he knows “a fair amount” about the people that the FBI purchased the tool from, that he has a “high degree of confidence that they are very good at protecting it,” and that the private party’s motivations align with those of the FBI. He also revealed that the tool purchased by the FBI only works on a “narrow slice of phones” that does not include the iPhone 5s or later models, possibly due to Apple’s new Touch ID and Secure Enclave architecture on those devices. The FBI Director also noted that the government has not yet decided whether to reveal the details of the hack to Apple, as he assumes Apple will fix the vulnerability if it is revealed to them, and the FBI will be “back where we started from.”
Apple has released a new round of developer betas for iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. The release notes for the new versions are relatively sparse, and the very minor version numbers — 9.3.2, 2.2.1, and 9.2.1, respectively — would suggest that these are primarily maintenance releases and do not likely include any new features worth noting. The new betas are available to registered developers from Apple’s Developer Site; those developers who installed the necessary beta configuration profiles for the prior beta cycle should also automatically see the new betas appear as an over-the-air update.
A newly discovered security flaw in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus allows users to bypass the lock screen and gain access to contacts and photos. The exploit only works on 3D Touch-equipped phones set to allow Siri access to Twitter, Contacts and Photos, but if all of those variables are in place, gaining access to a user’s photos is relatively easy.
If a Twitter search run through Siri yields a tweet that contains an email address, a 3D Touch gesture can then be used to call up the contextual menu with options to send mail to the address or add it to contacts. Choosing to add the address to contacts allows access to the phone’s existing contact list, and using the contact list’s option to add photos to a contact, the user can browse the phone’s photos without ever entering a passcode. To guard against the potential intrusion, users need only disable Siri’s Twitter integration under Settings > Twitter. [via Apple Insider]
Update: Apple has tweaked Siri to stop the personal assistant from allowing access to Twitter searches from a locked iPhone. A spokesman confirmed to the Washington Post that the company pushed out a fix to make Siri force users to unlock their phone before delivering Twitter search results. The update was handled on Apple’s on servers, so it won’t require any action from users.
A French watchdog agency claims Apple should pay 48.5 million euros in damages over illegal contracts with cellular carriers, French website BFMTV reports. The Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and Fraud has filed a complaint with the Commercial Court in Paris alleging Apple’s contracts with carriers are “significantly unbalanced” in favor of Apple, in violation of the Commercial Code.
Apple’s latest push to sell used iPhones in India is meeting strong resistance from a consumer group backed by rival Samsung, Bloomberg reports. Apple’s 2015 application was rejected, and the company’s recent request has drawn opposition from technology executives who say allowing the sale of used phones will turn India into a dumping ground for electronic waste. “Make in India could turn into Dump in India,” said Sudhir Hasija, chairman of Karbonn Mobiles, referencing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India program that encourages local manufacturing.
After successfully cracking the San Bernardino iPhone without Apple’s help, the FBI is now said to be testing to determine whether the technique can be used to unlock other versions and models of the iPhone, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. Apple is still trying to identify the security flaw that allowed the FBI to gain access to the iPhone in question, and the FBI has not been forthcoming with any details about the technique that was used or even what it found on the iPhone, and this latest report suggests that it may take officials “many more months” to decide what to do with these new capabilities.
A number of iPhone users on the Sprint network have reported problems connecting to LTE networks following the recent iOS 9.3 update. Users on Twitter and reddit are saying that their iPhones are only connecting to 3G, and that resets are not solving the problem in most cases. While the specific iPhone models are not entirely clear, most of the affected users appear to be using the latest devices. Sprint has also reportedly been sending out text messages to subscribers acknowledging the problem, noting that it’s “working quickly” on a fix. It’s not clear if the iOS 9.3.1 update addresses this issue, but it seems unlikely to be the case, and the problem is more likely related to a Sprint Carrier Update configuration file that was pushed out to Sprint users around the same time as the iOS 9.3 update was released. [via MacRumors]
iFixit has posted its teardown of the iPhone SE, confirming many of the findings that Chipworks made in yesterday’s teardown, as well as highlighting how many of the parts in the new 4” iPhone SE are actually identical to those found in the iPhone 5s, allowing many of them to be interchanged between models. iFixit noted that the displays between the two models are “pretty much identical” when compared side-by-side, and that the 5s display can in fact be used in the SE, which means that the older replacement parts and instructions can be used with the new iPhone model. The speaker, vibration motor, and SIM card tray are also identical to those used in the iPhone 5s. While all of the internal chips have naturally been upgraded — mostly to their iPhone 6s counterparts — other dissimilarities were also found, with iFixit observing that the larger 1624 mAh battery is not interchangeable with the one from the iPhone 5s as it uses a different connector. While the battery is a minor capacity increase from the 1560 mAh version found in the iPhone 5s, it’s not quite up to the 1715 mAh power found in the iPhone 6s. Similarly, while the iPhone SE camera sports the same capabilities as its iPhone 6s counterpart, iFixit found that the cameras were not interchangeable between the two models, and while the Lightning connector assembly in the iPhone SE looks basically identical to the iPhone 5s version, the connectors are a “smidge different” and the connectors can’t be used interchangeably.
Following reports earlier this week of a hyperlink bug which was causing freezes and crashes on some iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus units, Apple has released iOS 9.3.1, a minor update that promises to fix the issue. As usual, the update is available now through Settings > General > Software Update, or can be installed using a Mac or PC via iTunes.
We’ve just gotten our hands on Apple’s iPhone SE and have posted a number of unboxing and comparison photos, looking at the new 4” iPhone model alongside its larger siblings, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Be on the lookout for our full, independent, comprehensive iPhone SE review, coming on Monday.
Chipworks has posted a teardown of the new iPhone SE, revealing the hybrid nature of the device, with many iPhone 6s components mixed in with iPhone 5s and iPhone 6 internals. As expected, the new four-inch iPhone includes the same A9 flagship processor as the one found in the iPhone 6s, bearing a part number and date code indicating that it originated in a TSMC facility only nine weeks ago. The teardown also reveals the same 2GB LPDDR4 mobile DRAM used in the iPhone 6s, 16GB of Toshiba flash, and a NXP 66V10 NFC and Secure Element chip, again the same one as used in the iPhone 6s. Other components that Chipworks identified in common with the iPhone 6s include the audio chips and the six-axis inertial sensor. On the other hand, the Qualcomm modem and RF transceiver in the iPhone SE are from the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus generation, while Broadcom and TI chips are from the iPhone 5s generation. Chipworks noted a new Texas Instruments chip in the iPhone SE as well, bearing a 338S00170 number, which the report describes as likely to be a new Apple/Dialog power management circuit, as well as a Skyworks SKY77611 power amplifier, an EPCOS D5255 antenna switch module, and an AAC Technologies 0DALM1 microphone.
Now that the FBI has cracked San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone without Apple’s assistance, the company is left with the daunting task of fixing a security vulnerability it knows nothing about. Unlike other security issues where Apple is working to solve a known problem, the company has so far received no information from the FBI about the method used to break into the device. To complicate issues further, The New York Times reports Apple’s security operations have been in a state of transition since late last year, when Dallas DeAtley, leader of the Core OS Security Engineering team and the manager responsible for most government data extraction requests, left that team to work in a different part of the company.
Apple has issued a public response after the U.S. government dropped its lawsuit demanding the company’s assistance in hacking into a terrorist’s iPhone, with the company saying it will continue to aid law enforcement while also continuing to increase the security of its products. “From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent,” Apple said. “As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.”
The U.S. Justice Department said it gained access to the information on San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone without Apple’s help and has dropped its lawsuit against the company, Reuters reports. Last week prosecutors asked for a delay the day before a court showdown with Apple, saying the FBI was working with a third party to gain access to the phone. While reports claimed Israeli company Cellebrite was the third party working on breaking Apple’s encryption, law enforcement officials haven’t publicly revealed the party responsible for the hack, or what was found on the phone. “The FBI has now successfully retrieved the data stored on the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple required by this Court Order,” DOJ spokeswoman Melanie Newman said in a statement. Apple had requested that the FBI share information on how it accessed the phone, but an unnamed law enforcement source refused to tell CNN whether the FBI would make good on that request. “We can’t comment on the possibility of future disclosures at this point,” the official said. Apple declined to comment on the news.
Apple has released a new version of iOS 9.3 with build number of 13E237, designed specifically for older iOS devices. The first finished public release of iOS 9.3 had an issue during the activation process. Users of such devices — including the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and earlier devices — who were unable to recall their Apple ID info could find their devices rendered inaccessible. This new build is meant to provide a fix for that problem. We’re also awaiting an iOS update for everyone that will provide a fix for the current hyperlink bug seen in Safari and elsewhere after updating to iOS 9.3, but it appears like we’ll have to wait a little longer on that front.