Ap­ple clos­ing iPhone se­cu­rity gap used by po­lice

National Post (Latest Edition) - - FINANCIAL POST - Michael liedtke

SAN FRAN­CISCO • Ap­ple

Inc. is clos­ing a se­cu­rity gap that al­lowed out­siders to pry per­sonal in­for­ma­tion from locked iPhones with­out a pass­word, a change that will thwart law en­force­ment agen­cies that have been ex­ploit­ing the vul­ner­a­bil­ity to col­lect ev­i­dence.

The loop­hole will be shut down in a forth­com­ing up­date to Ap­ple’s iOS soft­ware, which pow­ers iPhones.

Once fixed, iPhones will no longer be vul­ner­a­ble to in­tru­sion via the Light­ning port used both to trans­fer data and to charge iPhones. The port will still func­tion af­ter the up­date, but will shut off data an hour af­ter a phone is locked if the cor­rect pass­word isn’t en­tered.

The cur­rent flaw has pro­vided a point of en­try for au­thor­i­ties across the U.S. since the FBI paid an uniden­ti­fied third party in 2016 to un­lock an iPhone used by a killer in the San Bernardino, Calif., mass shoot­ing a few months ear­lier. The FBI sought out­side help af­ter Ap­ple re­buffed the agency’s ef­forts to make the com­pany cre­ate a se­cu­rity back­door into iPhone tech­nol­ogy.

Ap­ple’s re­fusal to co-op­er­ate with the FBI at the time be­came a po­lit­i­cal hot potato pit­ting the rights of its cus­tomers against the in­ter­ests of pub­lic safety. While wag­ing his 2016 cam­paign, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ripped Ap­ple for deny­ing the FBI ac­cess to the San Bernardino killer’s locked iPhone.

In a Wednesday state­ment, Ap­ple framed its de­ci­sion to tighten iPhone se­cu­rity even fur­ther as part of its crusade to pro­tect the highly per­sonal in­for­ma­tion its cus­tomers store on their phones.

CEO Tim Cook has hailed pri­vacy as a “fun­da­men­tal” right and skew­ered both Facebook and one of Ap­ple’s big­gest ri­vals, Google, for vac­u­um­ing up vast amounts of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion about users of their free ser­vices to sell ad­ver­tis­ing based on their in­ter­ests. Dur­ing Ap­ple’s 2016 bat­tle with the FBI, he called the FBI’s ef­fort to make the com­pany al­ter its soft­ware a “dan­ger­ous prece­dent” in an open let­ter.

It’s un­clear what took Ap­ple so long to close an iPhone en­try­way that had be­come well-known among le­gal au­thor­i­ties and, pre­sum­ably, crim­i­nals as well.

It got to the point two firms, Is­rael-based Cellebrite and U.S. startup Grayshift, be­gan to sell their ser­vices to law en­force­ment try­ing to hack into locked iPhones, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports.

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