iOS 12 defeats law enforcement’s GrayKey iPhone unlocker

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GrayKey can bypass iPhone security
GrayKey can still unlock iPhones but can no longer unencrypted their contents.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple has apparently won a victory in preserving the privacy of iPhone users. Previously, even if an iOS device was secured with a password, police could use the GrayKey unlocking tool to access the contents. But that changed with iOS 12. 

This hacking tool reportedly became nearly useless with the release of Apple’s latest operating system.

Hackers and cops hate Apple’s iOS 11.4.1 update

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iPhone hacking is more difficulty with iOS 11.4.1
iPhone hacking is more difficulty if a new "USB Accessories" setting in iOS 11.4.1 is left off.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

The iOS version debuting today partially deactivates the Lightning port after an iPhone hasn’t been used for an hour. This makes iPhone hacking more difficult, for both criminals and law enforcement.

Previously, this feature was available in iOS betas. iOS 11.4.1 is the first time it’s been in a public version.

Hacker discovers bypassing iPhone passcode limit just requires a keyboard [UPDATED]

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iPhone passcode limit can be bypassed with a keyboard
A hacker claims the iPhone passcode limit can be bypassed with an external keyboard.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Companies like Grayshift help police bypass the passcodes on locked iPhones. One might think that this requires some byzantine hacking skills. Apparently not.

A hacker reports that iOS has a soft spot when it comes to external keyboards, allowing someone to send as many passcode attempts as desired. The passcodes have to be submitted correctly, though.

Turns out iOS 12 isn’t safe from ‘brute force’ iPhone unlockers

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iphone-unlock-640x426
Apple and a company that sells an iPhone unlocking tool are in a back-and-forth battle over your privacy.

Apple put a feature in the first iOS 12 beta designed specifically to thwart iPhone unlocking tools that use the Lightning port to get access to the device. But Grayshift, maker of a prominent unlocking tool, says it already has a workaround.

This is good news for the many law enforcement agencies around the U.S.  who’ve invested in Grayshift’s GrayKey unlocker. It’s not so good for anyone who wants to be sure their iPhone can’t be hacked.

iOS 12 makes iPhones immune to ‘brute force’ unlocking

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GrayKey can bypass iPhone security
Unlocking tools that quickly enter thousands of passcodes though the Lightning port can be blocked out with iOS 12.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

WWDC 2018 bug Cult of MacThe just-released beta of iOS 12 can be set to partially deactivate the Lightning port after an iPhone hasn’t been used for an hour. This is a clear attempt to make useless the unlocking tools employed by law enforcement.

Police across the country are purchasing a tool called GrayKey. When hooked to an iPhone’s Lightning  port, this swiftly enters thousands of passcodes until the correct one is reached. Deactivating the Lightning port would block its use.

Here’s how Apple is fighting GrayKey iPhone unlocker

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GrayKey can bypass iPhone security
iPhone unlockers are blocked if a week goes by without the correct passcode being entered.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple hasn’t found the security holes that iPhone unlocking tools use, but iOS 11.3 took a step that makes these cracking devices less useful. Police now have a limited amount of time to circumvent the user’s passcode before it becomes impossible.

This is part of an ongoing struggle between Apple and law enforcement agencies. The iPhone maker wants to protect the privacy of users, while police want access to information stored on devices used in crimes.

How to change your iPhone passcode so the cops can’t hack it

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iPhone passcode
A strong passcode is the next-best thing to keeping your iPhone in a safe.
Photo: Rob Pongsajapan/FlickrCC

It’s time to stop using that useless 6-digit passcode on your iPhone. Now that cops around the U.S. are going crazy for the GrayKey, a little box that can crack your iPhone’s passcode in hours, it has become clear that the iPhone’s regular six-digit numerical code is no longer secure. And now these boxes are available, it won’t be long before they’re in the hands of the bad guys, too, if they’re not already.

The good news is, it’s super easy to change your passcode to something a lot better. The bad news? There isn’t any, unless you have the cops trying to break into your iPhone, in which case you’ve got plenty of bad news already.

Cops open locked iPhones with GrayKey all the time

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GrayKey can bypass iPhone security
Law enforcement turns to GreyKey to unlock iPhones involved in crimes.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Police around the country are buying and using iPhone unlocking tools like GrayKey. These allow access to the contents of encrypted devices involved in crimes.

GrayKey is fairly expensive, and its maker can’t guarantee how long it will work. It depends on a iOS security flaw known only to its maker, and Apple could close this hole at any time. Nevertheless, law enforcement agencies are taking the risk.