According to a Forbes report, Israeli company Cellebrite is now able to unlock some very recent iPhones. Cellebrite is a well-known company that sells mobile forensics tools to extract data from locked devices.
While early versions of iOS weren’t really secure, this has changed quite a lot in recent years. All iOS devices now ship with a secure enclave, all data is encrypted if you use a passcode and there are multiple security checks when you boot and use your device.
In other words, if you don’t have the passcode, you’re going to have a hard time getting your hand on the data on the device. Many firms try to find vulnerabilities to unlock mobile devices. It has become a lucrative industry as intelligence agencies often pay forensics companies to unlock mobile devices.
Those forensics methods often lag behind. For instance, it’s quite easy to find a device to unlock an iPhone 6 running iOS 8. But if Forbes’ report and Cellebrite’s website are right, governments can now pay Cellebrite to unlock an iPhone 8 running iOS 11. It’s also worth noting that Cellebrite can unlock recent Android devices as well.
It’s unclear if it works with the most recent version of iOS 11 (11.2.6) or just the operating system version that was available back in September (11.0). It’s also unclear if it works with all iOS devices or if it only works with some devices. Forbes found a warrant that mentions an unlocked iPhone X.
This is a cat-and-mouse game, and Apple engineers are now probably working hard to fix all the vulnerabilities they can find. As always, if you don’t want to let authorities read your personal data, you should keep your devices up-to-date.
In addition to new features, security patches protect you against the most common attacks. And malicious hackers might use the same vulnerabilities against you.