Apple exec: Newer iPhones aren't immune to FBI backdoor concerns

According to an unnamed Apple executive, it would be technically possible to build a backdoor for Touch ID- and Secure Enclave-equipped iPhones that bypasses certain passcode security measures.

Yellow iPhone 5c
Credit: Jason Snell

By now, you probably know that the FBI wants Apple to build a “backdoor” that circumvents some passcode security features on iOS in order to get to data stored on an iPhone 5c as part of its investigation into the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

The iPhone 5c is an older model and it lacks some security features, such as Touch ID and the Secure Enclave present in newer models like the iPhone 6 and 6s. But what about those newer models? Could Apple conceivably be forced into building a backdoor for those phones, too? The answer, it seems, is “yes.”

TechCrunch reports that, according to an unnamed Apple executive, it is technically feasible for the company to build a backdoor on newer iPhones with Touch ID and the Secure Enclave that’s similar to the one that the FBI wants Apple to build for the aforementioned iPhone 5c.

In the San Bernardino case, the FBI wants Apple to build a custom version of the iPhone’s firmware that would allow the agency more readily crack the passcode on an iPhone belonging to Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the suspects in last December’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, CA. More specifically, the FBI wants to get around  an iOS feature that erases a phone after 10 incorrect passcode guesses so it can “perform an unlimited, high speed brute force attack,” as our Rich Mogull put it.

The FBI won a court order last Tuesday to force Apple to carry out its request—an order the company plans to appeal. In an open letter published to Apple’s website, CEO Tim Cook characterized the court order as “a dangerous precedent” and says that the company “fear[s] that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”

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