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FBI's iPhone-hacking tool can't get into the iPhone 5s or later

While the FBI purchased a tool that allowed it to unlock an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, it appears that the usefulness of that tool is fairly limited. According to FBI Director James Comey, the tool can only access a small subset of iPhones, with the iPhone 5c being the most recent model that it will work with.

According to CNN:

The FBI director also said the purchased tool worked only on a "narrow slice of phones" that does not include the newest Apple models, or the 5S.Comey said the government was currently considering whether to tell Apple how it pulled off the hack."We tell Apple, then they're going to fix it, then we're back where we started from," he said. "We may end up there, we just haven't decided yet."

The FBI is apparently telling some lawmakers about the hack, including Senator Diane Feinstein of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Bureau is known to own the exclusive rights to the method, which is thought to have been purchased from the mobile forensics company Cellebrite.

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

13 Comments
  • Haha. The FBI was boasting about how they can unlock any iPhone, and now it turns out they can't.
  • Technically they can. Just not all iPhone. Posted from my Samsung Galaxy S6
  • re-read my comment, then re-read yours...
  • This made me laugh harder than it should have. Sent from the iMore App
  • Funny that he posted that from his Galaxy S6 lol Sent from the iMore App
  • It turns out they cant? Says who? The FBI director? Sure. What was the NSA saying about spying on Americans themselves before the Snowden sh-t storm? exactly, that they didnt do it. They swore, too. So much for that. Im not saying they can unlock new devices. But laughing at what a FBI director says about smth that vital to national security (according to them, at least), is just moronic.
  • It makes perfect sense if you think about it. The "top of the line" for their tool is supposedly the 5c. That marks the last iPhone to ship without TouchID and the associated SecureEnclave.
    The only "other" iPhone before which is able to run >= iOS 8.0 is the 4s.
    Models on older iOS versions where never questioned to be accessible without knowing the codes. Sent from the iMore App
  • Get em lol Sent from the iMore App
  • Right... not buying it.
  • Apple asked the FBI how the tool works, but I wonder if the fact that it doesn't work the 5s and later is enough information for Apple to be able to determine on their own how it is/was done (assuming the tool really does work).
  • Seems the fbi cant keep it to themselves anyway, nor could the company that told them. Itll get to apple whether the fbi tells them or not. Sent from the iMore App
  • This is a pack of lies. Last week they were offering to hack into an iPhone 6 in Arkansas. Now that they have come under scrutiny and are being asked to reveal the hack they are trying to back track and say it only works on older phones up to and including the 5S/5c. Sent from the iMore App
  • If the FBI is as tech savvy as they appear in the media I wouldn't wonder if there was someone in their ranks who just had the bare news of "hey we can unlock the terrorists phone! " and is now running wild with the assumption that it works on each and every phone.
    Over sselling is common thing.. Sent from the iMore App