Apple Just Made Its Phones Impossible For Police to Hack

The widely used GreyKey tool is seemingly obsolete after the privacy-protecting iOS 12 update.

Employees at GreyKey, an app law enforcement agencies use to access iPhones without the owners’ permission, have said that the latest version of iOS blocks their app from accessing data.

Forbes‘ Thomas Brewster spoke with sources at GreyKey’s parent company GreyShift, who confirmed that the update specifically blocks the GreyKey app, and they cannot figure out why. Now, if a phone has the latest iOS update, GreyKey is only able to perform a “partial extraction,” limiting its efficacy to useless scraps of unencrypted files and some metadata. This presents a grave dilemma for GreyShift’s business of securing contracts with law enforcement and federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

When police have asked Apple for help accessing into iPhones, Apple has sided with consumer privacy. After the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attacks, Apple declined a judge’s order to give “technical assistance” to the FBI to access a suspect’s device.

Back in April, a Motherboard investigation revealed GreyShift contracts with State Police forces in Maryland and Indiana, and additional ties to the State Department and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The app uses a method known as “brute force” entry: automated password guesses that keep going until one works.

GreyShift is part of a growing industry working to thwart Apple’s privacy efforts. Earlier this year, an Israeli company called Cellebrite possibly aided a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raid on an iPhone X. And earlier this month, the FBI opened a suspect’s phone using an iPhone X’s Face ID—the first known instance of the feature being used in a law enforcement investigation. Apple, it seems, isn’t just going to take this lying down.

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