The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s director, James Comey, has publicly confirmed what many have suspected: That the law enforcement agency’s successful hack of the of the iPhone 5c used in the San Bernardino terrorist incident will not work on newer and more modern iPhones.
“We have a tool that works on a narrow slice of phones,” Comey said at an encryption and surveillance conference at Kenyon University in Ohio late on Wednesday.
The FBI director stated that while the hack works on the iPhone 5C and older smartphones made by Apple, the same method wouldn’t work on newer models that have fingerprint sensors.
Older iPhone versions don’t have the ‘secure enclave,’ that handles the end user encryption protocols that protects, pins and passcodes. Comey also said that:
“Litigation between the government and Apple over the San Bernardino phone has ended, because the government has purchased, from a private party, a way to get into that phone, 5C, running iOS 9,” the director said.
It has been widely speculated that an Israeli cybersecurity firm by the name of Cellebrite has been revealed as the third party source that the FBI are using to crack the security features of the iPhone that was used by the San Bernardino terrorists.
The FBI had been demanding that Apple create a special version of their iOS operating system, that would prevent the device from wiping itself if too many incorrect attempts are made via the passcode logon screen.
A federal court in the US was due to rule last month whether the FBI could issue a court order forcing Apple to help them, but the hearing was postponed when the Department of Justice announced that it might not need the tech firm’s assistance because a third-party had demonstrated a possible extraction method to FBI agents.
At the conference, the FBI director also made the point that the FBI was in a position to assist local and state law enforcement because they now had the means to unlock the older iPhones for them. The director sounded disappointed when he admitted that evidence gained this way could not be used in court.