This brute-force device can crack any iPhone’s PIN code


Photo: MDSec
It's not exactly the Enigma Machine, but it'll do the trick! Photo: Mobile App Hacker's Handbook

Touch ID might be a more convenient and secure security implementation than PIN codes, but for now at least PINs are sticking around — which makes your iPhone vulnerable to anyone who gets their hands on it.

Of course, your iPhone only gives you a certain number of failed guesses, which means that unless the hacker somehow quickly guesses the correct code out of the 10,000 possible combinations, your iPhone’s contents remain safe.

A new video which has surfaced online, however, shows off a brute-force machine capable of trying every possible four-digit numerical combination in turn, while also resetting your iPhone to try again when it runs out of attempts. You can check it out below.

The setup shows the iPhone’s internal battery disconnected, which gives the brute-force box the ability to control the iPhone’s power supply. Each time a guess is made, it is transmitted to the iPhone via USB. If the guess proves incorrect, an optical sensor attached to the iPhone’s screen recognizes this and cuts the power immediately before the device can record the failed attempt. The iPhone then resets, allowing the box to try another guess.

Every attempt takes 44 seconds, including the reset, which means that if all combinations tried are incorrect until the last one, it would take four-and-half-days to access an iPhone.

Apparently, the device sells for around $300, although any thief would have to bank on the fact that users wouldn’t remotely shut down their iPhones. Regardless, now that this video is doing the rounds, it is entirely likely that Apple will patch the flaw in a future version of iOS.

Even upgrading to a seven-digit password would be a good move, since this would increase the amount of time necessary to crack a device from 4.5 days to somewhere in the region of 12 years (!). By that point, you’ve got to think a phone that’s around the age of a 6th grader isn’t going to be worth too much.

Source: MDSec

Via: TechCrunch

  • Steve Deasy

    Does it only try numbers? There is an option to use letters for your passcode.

  • jfc123

    Umm hate to say It but a high school junior is 16-17 not 12. 12 is like a 6th grader.

    • Luke Dormehl

      That would be my UK-based education failing me when it comes to your school system! :D I’ll change it.

  • J Stewart

    Remote shutdown would be easy to defeat.

  • Rick Pruden

    I read this article a couple of days ago and their source says that it works on older versions of iOS, NOT that most recent versions (8.1.2 and up).

  • AKC322

    You write, “a certain amount of failed guesses.” You mean, “a certain number of failed guesses.” I guess your UK-“based” education is no better than the typical American education.

  • digitaldumdum

    “This brute-force device can crack any iPhone’s PIN code”

    I take your technical point, but that “brute-force” device absolutely cannot unlock •my• iPhone, not unless the cracker finds me, hits me over the head and steals it.

    Given how few assailants armed with such a device there are versus iPhone owners, I think we’re pretty safe. :)

  • Well, it would have a little problem with my 19 digit mixed alphanumeric password.

    • Graham

      Yes, there are an almost unlimited (I don’t know how many digits you can use) number of possible passcodes, not 10,000 as stated in the article.

  • Sir Laughs a Lot

    Way to mislead with the title! “unlock any iPhone” suggests all iPhones are at risk, but the criminals have to first have unfettered access to the iPhone, and even then, this thing only tries 4 digit numbers, not the exponentially greater number of possible passcodes that have more digits, and even harder to crack if they include letters.

  • BertVisscher

    I think you need to do the math again, because I came up with 5 days, 2 hours, 13 minutes, and 20 seconds. That is, accounting for 4-digit passcode, consisting of numbers only.