Over the years, Apple has gained a reputation in the tech industry as a company that offers quality and secured smartphones among other products.
In their bid to serve customers and emerge as one of the top tech leaders, the company has faced several legal tussles in the course of their journey.
In a move that is likely to make them lock horns with law enforcement personnel from time to time, the company seeks to seal several loopholes that are currently in use by third parties to unlock the devices of targeted individuals.
Apple devices have become a preference for those involved in illegal activities because of their security, memory storage and, last but not least, durability.
Several developers have even come up with versions of anonymous messaging apps that are compatible with iOS.
How Third Parties Unlock Apple Smartphones
In most cases, it is the authorities who have interest in unlocking Apple products because they tend to have interest in obtaining the information inside the devices.
What drives law enforcement bodies to have the devices unlocked is if they are undertaking a high-level investigation and they need some evidence which can be found in the smartphones.
Since they often do not have the much-needed tech expertise within their internal resources, what they do is outsource it form a third party, which happens to be security firms.
In the past, authorities such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation have approached Apple in a bid to have them unlock criminal suspects’ devices.
In 2016, the company famously refused the FBI’s order to unlock the device that belonged to one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terrorist attack.
Apple CEO Tim Cook proceeded to write a public letter saying that the company has respect for the law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, but they refuse to compromise the device by creating a backdoor for investigators’ use.
The primary reason is that they are engaging in an activity that is compromising the privacy of Apple customers.
The failure by Apple to cooperate made the FBI and other federal agencies to seek the services of firms such as Grayshift, founded by a former employee of Apple, as well as Cellebrite, an Israel-based firm.
The modus operandi is different when dealing with the above two companies. For the case with Cellebrite, the officers would send the phone to the company for unlocking, and it would cost several thousand dollars more than the price of the device.
But for Grayshift, it is a bit different since the security agencies would instead acquire a device known as GrayKey at the cost of $15,000, which they would use to decrypt the smartphones by themselves.
Before the police began using firms like Cellebrite and Grayshift, they would unlock the gadgets by themselves by trying to insert a multiple pins until the iPhone is unlocked. Because of this, Apple had to carry out software updates to keep their customers safe.
Among the agencies using the GrayKey device is the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a key player in the fight against opioid distribution which has been brought about by the darknet markets.
In a darknet-centric operation dubbed Operation Disarray, which was spearheaded by the FBI, the DEA was among the agencies that helped out in making it a success.
Now that the DEA is interested in devices that can unlock iPhones, one can connect the dots and conclude that perhaps there is a chunk of darknet users who are fond of using Apple devices.
It is not the first time that authorities have clashed with a company for designing products which are beyond their abilities to decrypt.
A few months ago, Canada-based Phantom Secure was also on the spot because of willingly developing products meant for darknet crime.
Measures Taken by Apple to Further Protect Customers
Following the move by the federal agencies and local enforcement personnel from different regions to seek the services of security firms to unlock iPhones, Apple has now begun work on how to ensure the existing technology can not bypass their devices.
The move has caused divergent opinions among persons from different backgrounds, with some supporting it and others against the idea.
What Apple intends to do is roll out a mass software update which would disable the ports used for charging and connecting a USB cable for transfers and plugging an earpiece after one hour.
In the past, the ports would still be active, giving third parties a way of compromising the devices no matter how long the phone remains unlocked.
The update will require only a password to be entered for the ports to be active, but it ultimately does not stop the user from being able to charge it.
Every Problem Has a Solution
The move by Apple to further sharpen their security will likely see more developers stepping up to implement their own solutions.
The burden of work will lie onto the hands of the authorities, and in a bid to try and get a solution, they will likely continue to seek the services of security companies.
In most cases, what transpires is that the same firms that have been offering solutions to such matters are consulted by the same clients who need alternatives to new problems.
For now, those using the devices might feel solace knowing that it will take some time for security firms to come up with a way to unlock the iPhone once Apple updates the software.
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