FBI Says That Method Used To Access iPhone Only Works On A Few Models

Here’s a couple of interesting pieces of info that FBI director James Comey dropped in a speech at the Biennial Conference at Kenyon University that CNN attended. First he said this about the tool that was used to access the iPhone 5c of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook:

“The people we bought this from, I know a fair amount about them, and I have a high degree of confidence that they are very good at protecting it, and their motivations align with ours,” he said.

So that adds some validity to the use of a tool from Cellebrite who specializes in this sort of thing. He also said this:

The FBI director also said the purchased tool worked only on a “narrow slice of phones” that does not include the newest Apple models, or the 5S.

I think I know why that might be the case. Anything that uses the Apple A7 processor or newer has something called the “secure enclave” which is defined as follows in this Wikipedia article:

The A7 also includes an area called the “Secure Enclave” that stores and protects the data from the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5S and iPad mini 3. The security of the data in the Secure Enclave is probably enforced by ARM’s TrustZone/SecurCore technology.

If you really want to go in depth on this, Apple has a guide that goes into a lot of techy nerdy detail here [Warning: PDF]. Page 7 is where you want to start reading about the “secure enclave” (though I found the entire document to be very intersting. But my thinking is that the “secure enclave” that is part of the A7 or newer chips makes it difficult if not next to impossible (at least at present) for Cellebrite or anyone else to hack into an iPhone. Thus, it leads me to believe that the fist time a iPhone 5S or higher needs to be unlocked by the FBI, Apple’s lawyers are going to get a phone call.

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