Snowden: FBI claim that only Apple can unlock iPhone is "bullshit"

A chair is pictured on stage as former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is awarded the Bjornson prize in Molde, Norway September 5, 2015.
Photo: Reuters

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says the FBI's attempt to unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone is a sham, reported The Intercept.

The FBI last month persuaded a federal judge that the only way to get into the phone was to make Apple write code to undermine its own security protocols. Apple is refusing to comply.

"The FBI says Apple has the 'exclusive technical means'," to unlock the phone, Snowden said during a discussion at Common Cause's Blueprint for Democracy conference in Washington DC Wednesday.

Snowden further explained on Twitter: "The global technological consensus is against the FBI," he wrote - linking to a blog post on the American Civil Liberties Union website explaining exactly how the FBI could have bypassed the iPhone's auto-erase function on its own. That's "one example," he wrote.

Other technologists have explained how the FBI could have easily accessed the phone's latest iCloud backup if agents working with San Bernardino County had not reset the iCloud password.

Even so, security researchers say there are other options, like "de-capping" the phone's memory chip to access it outside the phone (which Snowden has also mentioned), or resetting the phone's internal counter so that you can guess the passwords as many times as you want. Those techniques are hard and expensive and could destroy the phone, experts say - but have worked in the past.

The NSA and CIA have worked for almost 10 years to develop ways to hack into Apple devices, the report in The Intercept mentioned.

The key may be that none of those ways would be nearly as easy for the FBI as making Apple do it - this time, and from now on.

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