Report: Australian Firm Hacked Terrorist’s iPhone for FBI by Exploiting Apple’s Weak Code

San Bernardino Terrorists

In a recent report, the Washington Post outlines how the FBI turned to a small Australian firm for help after Apple refused to unlock the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone.

In a report titled “The FBI wanted to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. It turned to a little-known Australian firm,” the Washington Post outlines how the FBI managed to gain access to the iPhone used by a terrorist in the San Bernardino shooting in 2016 after Apple refused to access the device.

The FBI reportedly turned to a little-known Australian security firm called Azimuth Security, which exclusively sells its cyber services only to democratic governments. The firm reportedly worked alongside the FBI to gain access to the device, according to the Post. The Azimuth team exploited weak links in Apple’s security system to be able to guess the device’s password an unlimited amount of times without wiping the device’s memory.

The Washington Post reports:

Two Azimuth hackers teamed up to break into the San Bernardino iPhone, according to the people familiar with the matter, who like others quoted in this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Founder Mark Dowd, 41, is an Australian coder who runs marathons and who, one colleague said, “can pretty much look at a computer and break into it.” One of his researchers was David Wang, who first set hands on a keyboard at age 8, dropped out of Yale, and by 27 had won a prestigious Pwnie Award — an Oscar for hackers — for “jailbreaking” or removing the software restrictions of an iPhone.

Apple has a tense relationship with security research firms. Wilder said the company believes researchers should disclose all vulnerabilities to Apple so that the company can more quickly fix them. Doing so would help preserve its reputation as having secure devices.

But many security researchers say it’s legitimate to sell these flaws to democratic governments. And the ability of government agencies to unlock iPhones has also spared Apple from direct conflict with these governments. For instance, by unlocking the terrorist’s iPhone, some say, Azimuth came to Apple’s rescue by ending a case that could have led to a court-ordered back door to the iPhone.

Will Strafach, an iOS security researcher, commented: “This is the best possible thing that could have happened.” According to Strafach, by unlocking the iPhone Azimuth helped Apple to avoid “a very bad precedent where everyone’s phone would have weakened security.”

Apple spokesperson Todd Wilder stated that Apple supports “good faith” security research, adding: “Our engineers work closely with the security community in numerous ways.”

Read more at the Washington Post here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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