Since its introduction with iOS 7, Activation Lock has gotten stronger and stronger. But every so often, researchers stumble across a bug that allows it to be cracked. The latest is found in iOS 10.1.1, and it makes it surprisingly easy to get into a locked iPhone or iPad.
Researchers at Vulnerability Labs have demonstrated a method of unlocking an iOS device without any special software or tools. They essentially confuse Activation Lock by entering a string of emoji characters and using features like screen rotation and Night Shift.
The crack takes several minutes to carry out, but eventually grants access to the home screen. In the video below, the home screen appears for just a second, but Vulnerability Labs claims you can extend the time by quickly tapping the sleep/wake button.
This exploit is similar to another trick discovered by security researcher Hemanth Joseph back in November, which also used a long string of characters to confuse Activation Lock. Apple attempted to fix the bug in iOS 10.1.1, but it clearly hasn’t been totally wiped out.
Activation Lock was designed to make iOS devices useless by blocking access until a user signs in with the original iCloud account that was used to lock the device. It deters theft by turning stolen iPhones and iPads into little more than paperweights that have no resale value.
It’s unclear whether Apple is aware of the bug in iOS 10.1.1, or whether the upcoming iOS 10.2 update will eliminate it.