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FBI Enlists Aussies To Crack Terrorist’s iPhone

It has been revealed that the FBI enlisted the expertise of Australian security firm Azimuth Security to hack into the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.

In 2015, Farook and a partner killed 14 people in a terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Centre in San Bernardino, California. Farook was killed during a shoot out with law enforcement, and access to his iPhone quickly became a legal struggle, as Apple refused to build a backdoor to access the contents of the phone, for fear it would set a precedent, and breach the security of its devices for other users.

The FBI was eventually able to hack the phone, but their methods were unknown until The Washington Post yesterday revealed Australian involvement.

The iOS9 contains a security feature that erases the phone data after a certain number of failed password attempts. Azimuth built a work-around that allowed unlimited password guesses, allowing them to build code that correctly entered the right combination within hours.

The Aussie firm exploited a vulnerability in code written by Mozilla that allowed iPhones to use accessories through the Lightning port. Anyone planning to replicate Azimuth’s hack is out of luck; Mozilla fixed this bug during an update months after the company hacked the phone.

Ultimately, the hack didn’t reveal anything of use to the FBI, and a 2017 judge ruled that Azimuth’s involvement could be kept secret, for fear of cybersecurity attacks from those disgruntled the company helped the FBI to thwart Apple’s security measures.

Hopefully enough time has passed now for cooler heads to prevail.



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