Hide UI is sneaky spyware law enforcement can use to steal iPhone passcodes

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iPhone passcode limit can be bypassed with a keyboard
Spyware could help law enforcement figure out passcodes.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Grayshift, a company which creates iPhone-cracking tech for use by law enforcement, has reportedly developed software that can be used to break into suspects’ iPhones.

Described in a recent article by NBC News, the Hide UI spyware works not by cracking the code needed to unlock an iPhone, but rather logging it when the user accesses their device. Here’s how it works.

New York City built a $10 million iPhone-cracking lab

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GrayKey can bypass iPhone security
A passcode is the key to iPhone encryption. It keeps out criminals, and the police too.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

New York City works every day on hacking into thousands of iPhones, Androids, iPads, etc. The district attorney of Manhattan believes these contain evidence of crimes, and spent $10 million on a lab to find ways around or through iPhone encryption.

Trump administration weighs banning end-to-end encryption

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Proposed bill could hold tech giants more accountable for child exploitation
Encryption could be the next big conflict between Apple and the White House.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has banged heads with the Trump administration before, but its biggest clash could be yet to come.

According to a new report, senior White House officials met this week to discuss banning end-to-end encryption. This would affect a number of tech companies — including Apple, which has long touted its focus on user privacy.

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.

Feds force suspect to unlock iPhone using Face ID for first time

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VCSEL
No, this isn't the suspect in question!
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

According to a new report, for the first time in the U.S. and possibly elsewhere, law enforcement recently accessed a suspect’s phone by using their face to unlock Face ID.

The incident took place on August 10, when the FBI searched the house of 28-year-old Ohio resident Grant Michalski, later charged with receiving and possessing child pornography. Michalski was told to put his face in front of the phone, thereby unlocking it. This allowed agents to look through his online chats, photos, and other material deemed worthy of investigation.

Apple could face new encryption fight in Australia

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encryption
A bill in Australia could force tech companies to give law enforcement a "backdoor" to encrypted data that is part of a suspected crime.
Photo: orangesparrow/Flickr CC

Apple executives could face jail time and multi-million dollar fines if they refuse to hand over private encrypted data linked to suspected crime under a law proposed today in Australia.

The proposed change in telecommunication intercept law will be presented to parliament by Australia’s Ministry for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity. The law would require all technology companies, from Apple and Google to Microsoft and Facebook, to essentially create a so-called “backdoor” to access encrypted data.

Apple frequently forced to give customer iCloud data to police

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Police Car. Berlin, 2013
Apple strives to protect the privacy of its customers, but it's also required to comply with legal requests for information from law enforcement.
Photo: Stefan Draschan

A locked iPhone can’t be accessed without the passcode, and even Apple can’t unlock it. But Apple has to comply with government requests for iCloud information.

And there are a lot of them. The company received 3,358 requests to access personal data in the second-half of 2017, with about half of these coming from the United States.

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.