FBI Reportedly Used Third-Party Tool Graykey To Access Locked iPhone 11 Pro Max
Karamchand Rameshwar - Jan 19, 2020
For some reason, the FBI was able to crack the latest iPhone 11 Pro Max but failed to access the older iPhone 5 and iPhone 7.
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In late 2019, the FBI investigated a case in Ohio and conducted a search of the home of suspect Baris Ali Koch. Among the seized items was an iPhone 11 Pro Max, reportedly successfully cracked by the FBI without Apple's help.
According to lawyer Ameer Mabjish, the iPhone 11 Pro Max was locked and Baris Ali Koch did not reveal his password to the FBI. Also, Koch wasn't forced to open the lock with Face ID. Still, the FBI was able to get access to the iPhone 11 Pro Max, using a third-party tool called GrayKey.
GrayKey is a special tool, manufactured by a company called Grayshift. For a long time, these devices were sold to law enforcement agencies, so they could access locked iPhones to serve investigations.
However, last month, the FBI asked Apple to help them unlock a shooters' iPhone 5 and iPhone 7. The incident seemed serious, as both the Justice Department and President Donald Trump asked Apple to help the FBI.
The confusing thing is that the FBI could easily get access to a locked iPhone 11 Pro Max but had to rely on Apple to get data from the iPhone 5 and iPhone 7. While the Justice Department said it had tried many ways, but can't crack these two old iPhones.
A conspiracy theory has been put forward, that the Justice Department and President Donald Trump are trying to pressure Apple to create an exclusively backdoor providing access to every Apple device. Previously, Apple had also been involved in a legal battle with the FBI it was required to create a backdoor to access the shooter’s iPhone 5c in San Bernardino.
Apple strongly refused, saying that creating such a backdoor would be a bad precedent and abetting hackers. Eventually, Apple escaped a legal battle with the FBI and didn't need to create any backdoors or assistance to crack the iPhone 5c.
But the FBI and the Justice Department were most likely telling the truth. One thing we notice is that the iPhones that the FBI can't crack, are the outdated iPhones. It's possible that the GrayKey device can only unlock new iPhones with higher iOS, but can't unlock older iPhones with older versions of iOS. However, this possibility is unlikely given Apple's encryption architecture.
Grayshift has never revealed how to crack the GrayKey device, so we can't know exactly why. Regardless of the cause, one thing is for sure: Apple will not yield to the FBI in this regard.