Apple offered to help FBI unlock Texas shooter’s phone

FBI special agent Christopher Combs complained how the agency couldn’t get into the Texas shooter’s phone during a press conference. Turns out all they had to do was ask Apple for help. In a statement the tech titan has released to the media, it said it “immediately reached out to the FBI after learning from their press conference on Tuesday that investigators were trying to access a mobile phone.” Cupertino offered its assistance and even promised to “expedite [its] response to any legal process.” It added that it “work[s] with law enforcement every day” and “offer[s] training to thousands of agents so they understand [its] devices and how they can quickly request information from Apple.”

The company told Business Insider that the FBI has yet to ask for help accessing the phone. That pretty much confirms Reuters’ report that officials missed the 48-hour window that would have allowed them to unlock the device simply by using the shooter’s fingerprint. If the gunman had fingerprint access enabled, Apple could’ve told authorities that they had 48 hours to use his prints to unlock the phone before the feature ceased to function.

Now that it’s past 48 hours, the agency has to find a legal means to get to the phone’s contents. Officials will now have to serve Apple with a court order to be able to get their hands on his iCloud data. It’s unclear if the FBI is already securing a court order, but it might have decided not to work with Apple after having a tough time convincing the company to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. Apple refused to open the device for the agency even after the FBI took the company to court. In the end, the feds paid big money for a third-party company’s tool that was able to unlock the device.

Via: CNET, Business Insider, MacRumors

Source: John Paczkowski‏ (Twitter)

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FBI tried and failed to unlock 7,000 encrypted devices

In an 11-month period, the FBI failed to gain access to around 7,000 encrypted mobile devices, BBC News reports, which is about half of those targeted by the agency according to FBI Director Christopher Wray. In a speech given at the Association of Chiefs of Police conference yesterday, he said that device encryption was “a huge, huge problem,” for the agency.

The FBI publicly went after Apple following the 2015 San Bernardino terror attack as it sought access to the shooter’s locked iPhone 5c — a request that Apple staunchly refused. It eventually got around the issue by paying an undisclosed vendor reportedly $ 900,000 for software that gave the agency access to the phone. While that incident garnered a lot of attention, it certainly wasn’t the first time the FBI made it clear that encrypted smartphones were a headache for the agency. In 2014, then Director James Comey said that secure communications could lead to “a very dark place” and called on Congress to change the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act accordingly. Further, while the FBI presented the San Bernardino attacker’s phone as a special case of national security, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice was pursuing nine similar requests around the same time.

Wray said at the conference, “I get it, there’s a balance that needs to be struck between encryption and the importance of giving us the tools we need to keep the public safe.” But as cybersecurity expert Alan Woodward told BBC News, encryption is here to stay. “Encryption that frustrates forensic investigations will be a fact of life from now on for law enforcement agencies,” he said. “Even if the equipment manufacturers didn’t build in such encryption it would be possible to obtain software that encrypted data in the same way.”

Source: BBC News

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Firmware shows the next iPhone will use infrared face unlock

Ever since our close look at an alleged render of the next iPhone back in May, there have been rumors of 3D face scanning plus a large screen-to-body ratio flying about. Today, we finally bring you some solid evidence about these features, courtesy of — surprise, surprise — Apple itself. After digging up new details about the Apple HomePod in its leaked firmware, iOS developer Steve Troughton-Smith came across some code that confirm the use of infrared face unlock in BiometricKit for the next iPhone. More interestingly, in the same firmware, fellow developer Guilherme Rambo found an icon that suggests a near-bezel-less design — one that matches rumored schematics going as far back as late May. For those in doubt, Troughton-Smith assured us that this icon is “specific to D22, the iPhone that has Pearl (Face ID).”

These discoveries are by far the best hints at what to expect from the “iPhone 8,” which is expected to launch later this year. Additionally, we also learnt from our exclusive render that the phone may feature a glass back along with wireless charging this time. That said, there’s still no confirmation on the fate of Touch ID: while the HomePod firmware code seems to suggest that it’s sticking around, there’s no indication as to whether it’s ditching the usual Home button execution in favor of an under-display fingerprint scanner (as shown off by Qualcomm and Vivo at MWC Shanghai). Given how poorly Apple has been guarding the secrets of its next smartphone this time round, chances are we’ll hear more very soon.

Source: Steve Troughton-Smith, Guilherme Rambo

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Senator confirms FBI paid $900,000 to unlock San Bernardino iPhone

In early 2016, Apple was embroiled in a battle with the FBI over privacy, specifically whether it could (or would) crack an iPhone 5C following the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Apple refused to specifically create a backdoor piece of software that would circumvent the security protections built into iOS, citing concerns for the privacy of the other millions of people out there using iPhones and iPads. Ultimately, it became a moot point: the FBI purchased software to crack the iPhone in question. The agency refused to say how much it spent, but now Senator Dianne Feinstein has revealed that it cost $ 900,000 to break into the shooter’s phone.

That’s less than the $ 1.3 million that was estimated before, though that estimate was a back-of-the-napkin calculation based on a statement from FBI director James Comey. He said that the cost to the FBI was greater than what he’d make in the seven years and four months leading up to his retirement. Reuters did the math based on his salary, but it looks like the figure wasn’t quite accurate.

Senator Feinstein noted the $ 900,000 figure this past Wednesday while questioning Comey at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. “I was so struck when San Bernardino happened and you made overtures to allow that device to be opened, and then the FBI had to spend $ 900,000 to hack it open,” Feinstein said (as reported by the AP). She would know — she’s the top the Democrat on the Senate committee that oversees the FBI.

Until this statement, the FBI has refused to disclose either how much it spent to break into the San Bernardino iPhone; it also has protected the identity of the individual or company that broke into the phone. The agency has said both of those pieces of information are classified.

Via: Popular Mechanics

Source: Associated Press / CNBC

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India wants the tech used to unlock the San Bernardino iPhone

Israeli forensics company Cellebrite helped the FBI access the contents of a suspect’s iPhone 5c following the shooting in San Bernardino last year. Now India is in talks to buy the company’s tech that will allow it to unlock phones and other devices. The Economic Times reports that India’s Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) is purchasing the tool and should have it in hand within a month. What’s more, the FSL says India will be “a global hub for cases where law enforcement is unable to break into phones.” In other words, the India government will lend a hand to other countries that need to crack encrypted devices.

The Economic Times reports that the Indian government has already enlisted help from Cellebrite in “a few cases,” but now it will have the encryption cracking tech on hand to use as needed. Details are scarce on if the country will be the exclusive owner of the technology or under what circumstances it will make the resource available to other governments around the world. It’s also not a done deal yet, but FSL officials seem confident the government will complete the purchase soon. There’s no word on how much the transaction will cost, but the FBI paid Cellebrite over $ 1 million for its services in the San Bernardino case.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: The Economic Times

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OS X update could use iPhone’s Touch ID to unlock Macs

As we approach Apple’s annual WWDC event that starts June 13th, the rumors about upcoming iOS and OS X features are sure to ramp up. This week, MacRumors is reporting that the company is working on a way for you to unlock a Mac using your iPhone’s Touch ID feature. The security measure is said to bypass a typed log-in using Bluetooth when the phone is “in close proximity” to a computer running OS X. As MacRumors notes, there’s a similar feature on the Apple Watch that allows an unlocked iPhone to provide access to the wearable without the need to enter a second password.

If this Touch ID to unlock a Mac functionality sounds familiar, the third party Knock app for iOS and Apple Watch unlocks a nearby computer with those devices rather than having to key in a password. Back in March, Recode reported that Apple Pay was on its way to the browser for making purchases on the web. This new report suggests that the Touch ID interaction with Macs will be used to confirm those transactions as well. As is the case with any rumor, it pays to be a bit skeptical. However, we won’t have to wait long to see if this news is indeed true.

In terms of other rumors for OS X 10.12, reports indicate that Siri could finally make its debut on the desktop. This week, rumblings surfaced about the design of the dock icon, but we’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see if that virtual assistant or Touch ID unlocking will be a part of this fall’s software update.

Source: MacRumors

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