FBI could hack San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone using acid and lasers


iPhone mobile encryption touch id
There's one risky hacking method the FBI hasn't tried yet.
Photo: Olly Browning/Pixabay

The FBI claims there’s absolutely no other way for it to access San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone 5c expect other having Apple create a backdoor. But according to Edward Snowden there’s at least one other option: acid and lasers.

The former NSA contractor and privacy activist appeared in a virtual talk at Johns Hopkins University and pointed out that even though FBI insists forcing Apple to hack the iPhone is the only way forward, that’s simply not true.

“The problem is, the FBI has other means… They told the courts they didn’t, but they do,” Snowden said during his talk. “The FBI does not want to do this.”

Snowden is referring to an extremely risky hacking method called “decapping.” By using a laser drill, acid, and a lot of fancy equipment the FBI could hack the iPhone’s memory chip micron by micron. The only drawback is once they go down that path the iPhone will be rendered completely unusable if something goes wrong. And odds are pretty likely that something would go wrong.

Performing the decapping hack should be technically possible, according to some security experts. The process first uses acid to remove the chip’s encapsulation. A laser then drills down into the chip in an attempt to expose the portion of the memory that contains the UDID data. From there they would place tiny probes on the spot and read out the UDID bit by bit, as well as the algorithm used to untangle it.

Once the FBI has extracted the targeted data they could put it on a super computer and bruce force attack the missing passkey. It’s an all or nothing plan though, so it’s not hard to see why the FBI would try to force Apple to hack it for them first.

Apple CEO Tim Cook doubled-down on his defiance of the FBI’s order this morning in an email to employees explaining the company is fighting for the privacy of all Americans. The company is set to file its legal response to the FBI’s court order by the end of the week, though Tim Cook has said he wants the government to drop the order and let a federal commission decide.


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