Law enforcement may no longer be able to unlock iPhones protected with Touch ID or Face ID using the GrayKey hacking box, as the latest software update delivered by Apple renders these devices useless.
Created by Atlanta-based firm Grayshift, the $15,000 USD box (or $30,000, for a version that requires no internet connection and unlimited unlocks) arrived earlier this year as a tool for police departments to break passwords on iPhones related to criminal investigations.
Previously, Grayshift sold it to police authorities in the United States in order to be used on breaking into iPhones involved in criminal investigations. It was believed that the GrayKey device exploited an unknown vulnerability in iOS that allowed the device to extract the full contents of an iPhone even if a password was put in place.
In June, Apple said its new USB Restricted Mode would protect against devices such as those from Grayshift and Cellebrite, though the GrayKey maker quickly announced that it had “already defeated this security feature in the beta build.”
Now, according to Forbes‘ Thomas Brewster, sources from the forensic community told him that Apple’s efforts to keep bad actors and law enforcement from cracking into its users’ phones have paid off. According to the report, with the latest update to Apple’s iOS 12 operating system, the $15,000 tool made by a shadowy company called Grayshift is now only capable of performing a “partial extraction” of data.
This means the hacking box can only extract data that is not encrypted on an iPhone and which does not include personal user files. According to the report, information like metadata, file sizes, and folder structures remain available to GrayKey.
Grayshift’s efforts to break into iPhones will probably continue despite Apple allegedly resolving the exploited vulnerability, so it remains to be seen whether hacking boxes would still be effective on iPhones.