DOJ Says That The Crack Of Syed Farook's iPhone Only Applies To That Model Of iPhone

from the that's-not-how-tech-works dept

Update: We’ve now added to the story that the DOJ is saying that CNN got the quote wrong, and the vulnerability applies to any iPhone 5C, which is more believable, but still raises questions. Original story, with a note appended is below.

So late yesterday the Justice Department told magistrate judge Sheri Pym that it had successfully broken into Syed Farook’s work iPhone and therefore no longer needed to continue with the court’s order compelling Apple to write a new version of its iOS with security features removed. And then, in talking to the press, the DOJ apparently claimed the method only works for Farook’s iPhone:

On Monday, the Department of Justice said the method only works on this particular phone, which is an iPhone 5C running a version of iOS 9 software.

Perhaps the CNN reporter who wrote this really meant “this particular type of phone,” in which case the statement would be only marginally more believable, but the idea that it only applies to “this particular phone” makes absolutely no sense, and suggests the DOJ is flat out lying again. The only way in that works with just this phone would be magically finding Farook’s passcode (perhaps he left a post-it somewhere?). But if that was the case, the DOJ wouldn’t have asked for two weeks to “test” the method (even if they only took one week). Finding the passcode and testing it doesn’t take that long. Update: A DOJ spokesperson says that CNN got the quote wrong and that the actual statement was that the crack only applied to iPhone 5C devices.

And if it’s any other method, it must have wider applicability to other iPhones. It’s possible, if unlikely, that the method in question only works on iPhone 5Cs running iOS 9, but if it’s a true vulnerability, it’s likely that it impacts much more. It is true that later versions of the hardware include a chip called the Secure Enclave that might get in the way of certain vulnerabilities, but claiming that any such crack is limited to a specific phone is ludicrous.

And, of course, as we mentioned in the original post, if the DOJ really did find a vulnerability and refuses to share it with Apple, then the Justice Department is making us all less safe by refusing to reveal a potential security flaw that may impact tons of people. And then it’s also lying about it publicly. Not a good look, but an all too typical one, unfortunately.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “DOJ Says That The Crack Of Syed Farook's iPhone Only Applies To That Model Of iPhone”

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DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Updated

Or maybe CNN got the quote right. The FBI wanted this to be the party line. For consistency with prior untruths. But then realized after it was published that it doesn’t pass the sniff test. So a new lie about the quote being incorrect can cover up the first lie.

So many different lies becomes difficult to manage.

CNN won’t dispute the incorrect quote, no matter what the reporter thinks they heard, even if an audio recorder also mis-recorded it as saying the incorrect thing. Becuase CNN is the government’s lap dog. That’s why I quit watching after watching their astonishingly one sided coverage of Snowden in ’13. And SOPA prior to that, but I kept watching.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Updated

Wrong, at least from the government viewpoint, terrorism is when you force the government to do something, even if that something is the will of the people. Therefore the FBI are not terrorists, as they are protecting the government from fear, and making the people fearful helps to protect the government.

Rob says:

Something I don't understand

When they said “we can’t hack this phone”, everyone rightly questioned what they were saying.

But now, “we hacked this phone” seems to be largely accepted. Why? Granted, this time it’s actually a feasible statement, but they still have a lot to gain from lying. It’s a permanent out from the case that has been a disaster for them. Consensus seems to be that the data would be largely useless, so why would they even make the effort? Without details of the hack and/or revealed data that could only have come from it, why should they be given an iota of trust? Them backing off of the hack in general supports this hypothesis.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Something I don't understand

“But now, “we hacked this phone” seems to be largely accepted. Why?”

I don’t accept or reject the assertion. The FBI’s word cannot be trusted, so there’s no way I can determine how likely what they said is to be true.

But it also doesn’t matter to me. I don’t actually care one whit whether or not the feds manage to break into that phone. What I care about is preventing the feds from setting the precedent they were shooting for. Them dropping the case resolves that issue for me.

Although I completely expect that this will come up again. Next time, the feds will do their best to keep it out of the public eye.

scotts13 (profile) says:

The only thing we know for certain...

The only thing we know for certain is that we’ll never know exactly what happened. Too many people with good reasons for lying. Saying they got in serves a purpose whether they did or not. What they found, if they did – hurts their case if it was nothing, might get found out if they fabricate. Certainly they’ll never release real details. Give Apple information that might make it harder next time? Don’t make me laugh.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The only thing we know for certain...

Sorry there is NO good reason for lying.

If we hope to have and keep liberty then the activities of Justice and its institution must live inside of a clear house.

It is impossible for a citizenry to remain free of tyranny when “State Security/Secret” can be used to hide government activity or used to incarcerate or punish others.

I only make 1 exception and that is Military application. But once a military tool is provided to any agency that deals with Citizens then it should be immediately declassified and the details made available to the public.

While not amazing that many people like you fail history to the detriment of the nation, it is still sad none the less.

Please obtain wisdom so that you may understand how fundamentally terrible it is to even entertain the idea that a government of ‘secrets’ could ever be anything other than corrupt.

DannyB (profile) says:

Did the FBI actually crack this phone?

As I said in a previous TD article about this, one outcome I suggested was that the FBI would now somehow magically crack this phone. Or would try, but be unsuccessful. I also suggested in the process that the phone might be ‘accidentally’ destroyed during the attempt.

But one thing I was clear about: this ruse was going to happen in order for the FBI to back out of this case before it might set a precedent they didn’t want. Nevermind the bad PR they were getting. Better to try again another day, in a secret court.

Anonymous Coward says:

And, of course, as we mentioned in the original post, if the DOJ really did find a vulnerability and refuses to share it with Apple, then the Justice Department is making us all less safe by refusing to reveal a potential security flaw that may impact tons of people.

That’s assuming “making us safe” was their concern to begin with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Again more evidence of the NSA inserting programmers/Narcs into Apple HQ.

They KNEW all along of weaknesses in the iPhone OS, but hoped Apple would rollover and they could pretend THAT was the reason iOS was cracked.

Sadly Apple didn’t play ball and now everyone knows.

Betcha Apple is currently HEAVILY vetting its iOS and OSX staff and making them turn over their bank statements to see who got paid off by the government….

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