FBI Director Says Method of Unlocking iPhone Can’t Be Used on iPhone 5s or Newer

After disclosing its method of accessing the iPhone 5c of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook to a few U.S. Senators, the FBI today released a new sliver of information regarding the highly secretive invasive steps the organization has taken to get into the iPhone in question.

FBI director James Comey gave a few hints about “a tool” from a private party that it used to gain access to Farook’s iPhone (via CNN).

In a speech at the Biennial Conference at Kenyon University, Comey mentioned that the tool purchased from the private party — reportedly Israeli mobile developer Cellebrite — only works on a “narrow slice of phones,” which does not include models of the iPhone 5s and after. Although that range allows the FBI to enter into Farook’s iPhone 5c, the beefed up security of the A7 chips of the 5s and onward limits the organization’s ability to use Cellebrite’s tool for any of its more recent security-locked iPhone cases.

After the FBI said it found a method of getting into the iPhone used in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, the Cupertino company promised it would insist on obtaining the details of the exploit if the case were to move forward. Since the Justice Department officially dropped the case against Apple, the company can’t ask for that information, and Comey said the government is contemplating the pros and cons of looping Apple in on the situation.
“We tell Apple, then they’re going to fix it, then we’re back where we started from,” he said. “We may end up there, we just haven’t decided yet.”
Even though the official legal battle is over, Apple’s statement at the end of the lawsuit referred to the company’s continuing promise to “increase the security” of all its products as the threat against user data becomes “more frequent and more sophisticated.”

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