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