Snowden calls "bullshit" on FBI's claim that only Apple can unlock the San Bernadino shooter's iPhone

In a conference for Common Cause’s Blueprint for Democracy, Edward Snowden called "bullshit" on the FBI's claims that only Apple can unlock the iPhone involved in the San Bernadino shooter case.

In a conference for Common Cause’s Blueprint for Democracy, Edward Snowden called "bullshit" on the FBI's claims that only Apple can unlock the iPhone involved in the San Bernadino shooter case. The FBI is doing its best to convince the judiciary that they have no other means of accessing the shooter's iPhone. Many analysts and security experts have pointed out that the FBI does have options and that it's simply refusing to exercise them in the hope of setting a precedent.

Apple so far has refused to comply with the FBI's request. Referring to the FBI's claims that Apple has the "sole technical ability" to unlock the iPhone, Snowden said, “Respectfully, that’s bullshit.” He also pointed to an ACLU article that pointed out a simple, non-destructive method for unlocking the iPhone. Snowden added that the method in question was only one of the many options that the FBI has at its disposal.

The ACLU article makes for a very interesting read, but we'll summarize it here for those not inclined to read through the whole report.

Apparently, the iPhone in question hosts all user data on a NAND chip (flash memory as found on just about every phone in the market). The FBI claims that if they try to hack the passcode, the phone would erase all data after 10 attempts. In actual fact, the data is never erased from the device at all.

iOS features multiple levels of security, one of which is to encrypt user-data with a key that is stored on the flash memory itself. When the wrong passcode is entered a set number of times, or if you remotely trigger an erase request (via find my iPhone for example), the encryption key is erased from memory. This is akin to destroying the key to an impenetrable safe. The data is still there, it's just not accessible and almost impossible to decrypt.

ACLU suggests that all the FBI has to do is desolder the NAND chip, copy the data byte for byte and then attempt to crack the passcode. Even if the data is erased, the FBI can still eventually figure out the passcode and restore the original data to the NAND chip. They then enter the passcode and voila, all the iPhone's data is at their fingertips.

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