Breaking into an iPhone is an Afternoon’s Work, Experts Say


iPhone privacy and security protocols are proving to be a tough nut for the FBI to crack. This has resulted in a federal judge ordering Apple to help the agency break into an iPhone of one of those involved in the San Bernardino, California, killings.

Apple needs to create a patch or rather software that can be used to unlock the iPhone in question; something experts believe can only take a single afternoon to accomplish. However, the company’s CEO Tim Cook has some reservations about this step, citing the violation of the public’s interests as a major concern.

“It wouldn’t even be difficult [for Apple to create the patch],” said Zulfikar Ramzan, who is the chief tech officer at RSA, a company that usually does contract work for the Department of Justice, in reference to the possibility of Apple coming up with the software. To second this statement, CEO of Lieberman Software Philip Lieberman, termed the entire writing of the code as something “trivial” for Apple, adding that it can only last an afternoon to complete the task.

“It’s just a patch to a single iPhone and that’s it. It’s just an afternoon’s worth of work,” he said. Lieberman Software also does work contract work for the same Department of Justice.

The story behind the story

On Tuesday, Apple was ordered by a federal judge to help the FBI with software that can be used to disable the security feature used on the iPhone 5C. This is the model that was recovered from Rizwan Syed Farook, who was among the attackers at the San Bernardino shootings where 14 were killed back in December.

Apple is renowned for its tough security measures it employs to help keep user data as private as possible. While the agency has Farook’s phone, they can’t access it without a passcode. To make matters worse for the FBI agents, it is possible Farook had enabled another Apple security measure – Auto-erase.

With Auto-erase enabled, the phone automatically deletes all saved data whenever one tries to enter a wrong password ten times. Since the FBI believes that this device might contain some valuable information to help with this case, they decided to seek Apple’s help as a way of getting around the Auto-erase feature. Once this is done, the agency believes that it can go ahead and try over a million passcode combinations in a bid to unlock the iPhone 5C.


According to Apple CEO, this process requires the iPhone maker to write a new version of the 5C operating system, install it in Farook’s phone in order to go around the security features. Apple holds the special digital key required to apply the new OS to the phone.

Backdoors are dangerous, Cook warns

Cook says that a backdoor to the iPhone will have to be created in order for this to work, but as many other security experts believe, this would be putting the public in danger. When this software gets into the wrong hands, it can be used to unlock any iPhone at hand, he adds.

To defend the judge’s decision, the White House said that the FBI was only asking for help from Apple with respect to Farook’s iPhone and not all iPhones or anything to do with creating a new backdoor.

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