Another feather in Apple’s hat looks to be a little tarnished today after an Israeli company launched an iPhone encryption-cracking hardware device which will open any files on their phones. This means that those people who thought all of their communications were totally secure shouldn’t feel so confident going forward.
In February, reports surfaced that an Israel-based technology vendor, Cellebrite, had discovered a way to unlock encrypted iPhones running iOS 11 and were marketing the product to law enforcement and private forensics firms around the world, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Shortly thereafter, Grayshift emerged as a different company that had developed an inexpensive black box that could unlock any iPhone, it now appears that local and regional police departments, primarily in the States, as well as several government agencies and departments have been purchasing the technology as well.
Reports say that Grayshift’s GrayKey de-encrypting device has two iPhone-compatible lightning cables, and can unlock an iPhone in about two hours if the owner used a four-digit passcode and three days or longer if a six-digit passcode.
The FBI may have already put one to use in the case of San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook. Until last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray had maintained his agency was unable to crack the passcode on an iPhone used by Farook.
The Justice Department had petitioned the courts to force Apple to comply with an order to unlock the device but unexpectedly they announced that they had cracked the code.
The GrayKey box retails for $15,000. That model is geofenced to a specific location, requiring an internet connection that enables up to 300 unlocks. There is also a $30,000 GrayKey model that can be used independent of internet connectivity and offers an unlimited number of device unlocks.
Conversely, Cellebrite charges $5,000 to unlock a single iPhone.
Keep in mind that if the police are buying these devices, so are others who may have a whole different agenda.
Reporting for Computer Insider, I’m Bob Pritchard