iPhone Password Security Bypassed By Cambridge Scientist Puts In Doubt FBI's Previous Claims

Research has shown that quite a number of people are lax with their passwords thinking that as long as nobody knows their secret code, their phone remains secure.

The iPhone is a common case, given Apple's sterling reputation for making their devices locked tight in cyber security.

Even the FBI apparently agrees that the iPhone is one tough nut to crack.

However, the reputation of Apple's cyber security and the FBI's statements are recently thrown into the spotlight when a tech security scientist from a prestigious English university showed that not only is it simple to hack the iPhone, it also does not cost a lot.

Apple's Security System Broken

BBC reported that a computer scientist from the University of Cambridge has revealed that with just a few basic components that can be bought in any generic electronics store, an iPhone's passcode can be bypassed without much difficulty.

Dr Sergei Skorobogatov, a senior research associate in the Security Group at the Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge in the U.K., has figured out how to unlock iPhones by cloning the device's memory.

Dr Skorobogatov's project centered on the iPhone 5C. The device is Apple's budget-friendly phone launched in 2013 as a successor to the 2012's iPhone 5.

The phone gained notoriety when it became the target of the FBI's  terrorism investigation during the tragic San Bernardino shootings in December 2015 where two armed radicals, a married couple, shot and killed 14 people and seriously injured 22.

One of the San Bernardino terrorists, Syed Rizwan Farook, had an iPhone 5C which the FBI wanted to hack to dig deeper into the background of the shooter.

The FBI believed that the iPhone held critical information about collaborators who might still be lurking in the U.S.

The FBI asked Apple to hand it a backdoor software but the tech firm rebuffed the request reasoning that the FBI's actions could serve as a precedent for violating people's right for privacy in the name of national security.

Since Apple would not cave in, the FBI instead paid $1 million to a security company to hack the terrorist's budget iPhone.

The FBI Overpaid

Dr. Skorobogatov believes the FBI paid to high a price. He also expressed doubts about the veracity of their statement that it is nearly impossible to hack the iPhone's security system.

Techradar shared that Dr. Skorobogatov, in order to prove his point, posted a public video on YouTube showing how he hacked the iPhone 5C using electronic parts that just cost him $100. 

Dr. Skorobogatov, who finished his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Cambridge in 2005, cloned the iPhone's NAND memory chips which is the primary memory storage system of the phone.

The clone gave him an unlimited number of attempts to hack the device's passcode because the clone only had to be reset if a wrong passcode was entered.

It was a relatively quick process. Hacking a four-digit passcode took around 40 hours, while a six-digit code above a hundreds hours.

The Cambridge scholar believes that given the abundant resources of the FBI, a large scale application of his hacking technique could possiblty unlock another iPhone and at a faster rate. 

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