FBI Manages to Break Into a US Gunman's iPhone Without Apple's Assistance

Representative image (Reuters)

Representative image (Reuters)

The iPhone belonged to Mohammed Aishamrani, the Saudi air force officer, prime accused in the Florida Naval Air Station shooting in December 2019.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 11:48 AM IST

The US government has accessed an iPhone of a terrorist involved in December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, without any help from Apple despite repeated requests. In a media briefing, US Attorney General William Barr said that Mohammed Alshamrani, the Saudi air force officer accused of killing three classmates and injuring eight others at Florida Naval Air Station on December 6 was affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Alshamrani shot one of his two iPhones, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wanted to examine but Apple refused once again, reports NBCNews. “Apple’s decision has dangerous consequences for public safety and national security and is, in my judgment, unacceptable,” Barr said on Monday.

The FBI director Chris Wray credited technical skill of the agency in accessing the iPhone “We received effectively no help from Apple,” said Wray. According to Forbes, the FBI has spent $72,150 on GrayKey technology in April that can break through Apple encryption and get data. The agency has spent over $1 million on the technology that costs $15,000-$30,000 for a license.

Apple earlier defended its stance on hardware encryption, as the FBI asked the Cupertino-based giant to unlock two iPhones owned by the Florida shooter. “Building back doors into encryption is not the way we are going to solve those issues,” Jane Horvath, Apple’s Senior Director of Global Privacy, said in January this year. Apple also denied FBI access to an iPhone belonging to the shooter in San Bernardino terror attack in 2016. The FBI had to pay professional hackers to break into the device.,Manages,to,Break,Into,a,US,Gunman’s,iPhone,Without,Apple’s,Assistance,Apple,Apple,iphone,&publish_min=2020-05-21T04:38:51.000Z&publish_max=2020-05-23T04:38:51.000Z&sort_by=date-relevance&order_by=0&limit=2

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Google Finds Security Flaws in Apple Safari Browser

Google security researchers discovered several security flaws in a privacy software in Apple web browser Safari that could have helped third-party vendors track users’ browsing habits. According to a report which cited a soon-to-be-published paper from Google’s ‘Project Zero’ team, the vulnerabilities were found in an anti-tracking feature known as ‘Intelligent Tracking Prevention’. Once disclosed by Google researchers to Apple in August last year, the Cupertino-based iPhone maker immediately patched the flaws.

Apple launched the ‘Intelligent Tracking Prevention’ tool in 2017 to, in fact, protect Safari users from being tracked around the web by advertisers and other third-party cookies. According to Google researchers, the vulnerabilities left personal data of Safari users exposed. They also found a flaw that allowed hackers to “create a persistent fingerprint that will follow the user around the web”.

Apple confirmed it patched the issues. This is the third time Google researchers have found flaws in the Apple ecosystem.

In September, Apple slammed Google for creating a false impression about its iPhones being at hacking risk owing to security flaws that allegedly let several malicious websites break into its iOS operating system. Researchers at ‘Project Zero’ team had discovered several hacked websites that allegedly used security flaws in iPhones to attack users who visited these websites — compromising their personal files, messages, and real-time location data.

In a statement, Apple said the so-called sophisticated attack was narrowly focused, not a broad-based exploit of iPhones “en masse” as described. According to Google, the websites delivered their malware indiscriminately and were operational for years. According to the iPhone maker, “all evidence indicates that these website attacks were only operational for a brief period, roughly two months, not “two years” as Google implies.

Google researchers also said they identified a vulnerability that accessed all the database files on the victim’s iPhone used by end-to-end encryption apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and iMessage. Apple said that it fixed the vulnerabilities in question, working extremely quickly to resolve the issue just 10 days after it learnt about it.

In July last year, the ‘Project Zero’ team found six critical flaws in Apple iMessage that can compromise the user’s phone without even interacting with them. These security vulnerabilities fell into the ‘interactionless’ category.

Two members of ‘Project Zero’, Google’s elite bug-hunting team, published details and demo proof-of-concept code for five of six ‘interactionless’ security bugs that impact the iOS operating system and can be exploited via the iMessage client.

All the six security bugs were patched with the iPhone maker’s iOS 12.4 release.