Phone-Cracking Firm Cellebrite Claims It Can Unlock Latest iPhones

Phone-Cracking Firm Cellebrite Claims It Can Unlock Latest iPhones

Boxes of the new iPhone X sit on a table at an Apple Store.Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty)

Cellebrite, a law enforcement vendor that helps officials get into locked and encrypted devices, has claimed that it can unlock Apple’s newest phones and operating system, Forbes reports.

The firm tends to keep its abilities somewhat quiet, but it did advertise its ability to unlock and extract data from Apple devices running iOS 11, the company’s latest mobile operating system. It’s data extraction techniques are effective on “Apple iOS devices and operating systems, including iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, iPad Pro and iPod touch, running iOS 5 to iOS 11,” according to its marketing materials.

According to Forbes, this capability extends at least to the iPhone 8 and probably to the iPhone X as well. As detailed in a November 2017 warrant, the Department of Homeland Security was able to unlock an iPhone X it seized during a weapons trafficking investigation.

However, it’s not clear which exact version of iOS 11 Cellebrite has cracked. In December 2017, Google’s bug-hunting wing, Project Zero, released an exploit for iOS 11.1.2. The exploit was celebrated in the jailbreaking community, but Apple patched it in iOS 11.2. It’s possible that Cellebrite is using the exploit to crack earlier versions of iOS 11, and Apple always recommends that users upgrade to the latest iOS for the strongest security protections.

Just a few months before the warrant was executed, Cellebrite warned that it was struggling to crack the latest iPhone models, Cyberscoop reported.

Firms like Cellebrite are constantly locked in a race against Apple, as they try to find flaws in Apple’s security before Apple finds and patches them. Cellebrite’s capabilities often lag slightly behind Apple’s product launches – last year, Cellebrite said its capabilities had advanced as far as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, months after Apple had already launched the iPhone 7.