Snowden: FBI could hack San Bernardino iPhone without Apple’s involvement

“Using acid, lasers and other very delicate instruments, it should be technically possible — if painstakingly slow and extremely risky — for the government to hack into the iPhone belonging to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook without Apple’s assistance, cyber security researchers told ABC News,” ABC News Radio reports. “In court filings last week in which the Department of Justice requested a judge compel Apple to assist them in opening the phone, the government said, ‘The phone may contain critical communications and data prior to and around the time of the shooting that, thus far: (1) has not been accessed; (2) may reside solely on the phone; and (3) cannot be accessed by any other means known to either the government or Apple.'”

“But Wednesday former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said the third statement is not totally true and mentioned one technique in particular that he said could be used to hack the device unilaterally,” ABC News Radio reports. “‘The problem is, the FBI has other means… They told the courts they didn’t, but they do,’ Snowden said during a virtual talk hosted by Johns Hopkins University. ‘The FBI does not want to do this.’ Called ‘de-capping,’ the method involves removing and de-capsulating the phone’s memory chip to expose it to direct, microscopic scrutiny and exploitation.”

“Four cyber security researchers told ABC News that it technically should be possible to crack the phone that way. One of the researchers went further, saying, ‘If you have physical possession of a device, there are any number of ways to extract its secrets,'” ABC News Radio reports. “The process could be a months-long endeavor and carries a real risk of destroying the chip completely.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Unsurprisingly, the FBI doesn’t want to risk frying the thing and would prefer to try to set a precedent they would then be able use repeatedly.

Why did the FBI direct the San Bernardino Health Department to reset Syed Farook’s Apple ID? – February 22, 2016
Apple posts open letter: ‘Answers to your questions about Apple and security’ – February 22, 2016
Apple could easily lock rights-trampling governments out of future iPhones – February 20, 2016
Apple is still fighting Big Brother – February 19, 2016
Apple: Terrorist’s Apple ID password changed in government custody, blocking access – February 19, 2016


  1. “prefer to try to set a precedent they would then be able use repeatedly.”

    . . . and order someone else to create new software they (and future administrations) can use repeatedly.

      1. I was about to post this here as well. I wish the general press would actually read this before they say one word covering this story, as most of the reporters I’ve heard discussing this over the past several days clearly don’t understand this technology at all, and their shi**y coverage of this story is quite biased.

  2. It’s as if this phone is more valuable than the trust of the people.

    I think in order to win, you have to take some risks and accept some failures. However this gamle they are willing to take is canibalism of our nation’s core values. It’s unacceptable.

    1. No one wants to be the victim of a terrorist plot, but there are limits to the steps that are acceptable in counterterrorism and in prosecution of alleged terrorists. We went too far with the Patriot Act and Guantanamo and “enhanced interrogation” and numerous drone strikes without sufficient checks and balances.

      No matter what steps you take, you cannot eliminate terrorist acts. People who are willing to die for their cause make formidable enemies. The same holds true of defenders of a cause. We are the defenders and, if we keep going down this slippery slope, we are handling the victory to the terrorists. We will have let them push us into stepping back from our foundational values if we value safety over liberty. The people who founded and fought for this nation accepted the risk and were willing to make the sacrifice. We who have been handed this important legacy can do no less. We must be willing to risk the consequences of terrorist attacks and be prepared to defend her with our own lives.

      It is not just our time that matters. It is the legacy that we will pass onto our children. We must endure.

    2. They don’t care about the trust of the people. I would even say that for the FBI, NSA, CIA they should not be concerned about it. They are trying to do their job, which in this case means doing whatever it takes to get the information on that phone.

      It is supposed to be up to our courts to defend our rights and freedoms, but they don’t seem particularly interested in doing so. The politicians are only interested in doing what they think is popular, so none will have the courage to defend Apple if they think 51% of the voters are more afraid of terrorists than they are of losing their constitutional rights.

  3. Apple has a lot of enemies who want to see the company get creamed and that’s why they’re going after Apple. No matter what Apple does shareholders are going to lose. An intelligence agency going after Apple is like a prosecutor going after a beer company because a drunken driver killed someone while intoxicated from drinking that beer. I guess there’s not much point in a company building secure devices if they have to give up the master key in the end.

    I don’t know how Apple always gets involved in these sort of controversies. Every time Apple rolls the dice it comes up craps. I’m really surprised to hear how most Americans are willing to give up their privacy. People lie all the time to cover up their dirty little secrets.

  4. It seems to be that any hard drive I’ve ever had that I’ve either formatted or erased still had the information intact on it. This would be true unless apple wipes the drive by overwriting the entirety of the storage with random 1’s and 0’s. Since wiping a phones contents and settings takes such a short period of time to accomplish, I highly doubt if Apple is securely wiping the drive. Am I missing something here or is erasing the phone a moot point?

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