The FBI has informed Apple of a vulnerability affecting older iPhones and Macs. It’s the first time such information has been shared with Apple by the feds under a White House “Vulnerability Equities Process” intended to disclose security weaknesses when they are discovered.
The Vulnerability Equities Process is designed to act as a balance between the desire of law enforcement and U.S. intelligence services to be able to hack into devices and the public interest in warning companies of weaknesses in their systems that may be exploited by criminals.
The disclosed vulnerability is not, for the record, the method used by the FBI to unlock the iPhone 5c at the center of the San Bernardino shooting. The FBI may not be able to share that info with Apple due to not having legal ownership of the method in question.
Instead, it is possible that the discovery in question was shared with Apple in an attempt to counteract the recent negative publicity the FBI has received over its fight with Apple. The move signals that the FBI will share vulnerabilities when it can.
The security tip was given to Apple on April 14, although the company has noted that it was a vulnerability already fixed in iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. There’s no word on what the vulnerability in question is, but the fact that it no longer exists in the latest software updates means 80 percent of Apple users are unaffected.