Researchers say San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c can be accessed without Apple, but it’s risky

Apple - iPhone 5c 2014-05-13 10-28-44 2014-05-13 10-29-05

An iPhone 5c is seeing way more attention these days than it ever did at launch, thanks to it being center stage in an ongoing debate about security.

Whatever round we’re in in the Apple vs. FBI fight, the struggle continues, as the latter tries to get the former to help it access a locked iPhone 5c that was used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino event in 2015. Now, according to a new report from ABC News, researchers say that they can access the iPhone 5c in question without Apple having anything to do with it, but that the process is incredibly risky.

The process actually includes lasers and acid. It’s called “de-capping,” and it involves removing and de-capsulating the phone’s memory chip. Once that’s done, if it can be done at all, that would expose the chip to microscopic scrutiny, which could then reveal the information that’s stored on it. The report followed up with four different security researchers, and each of them echoed that using this method could, technically, extract the information the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking for, but that the process is incredibly risky.

Specifically, the process could take months, and that if it fails, and the chip is damaged in the process, the information stored on it would then be lost forever. The process means starting with acid to remove the chip’s encapsulation. Then, with an ion beam, essentially drilling down to the chip itself. If that is actually accomplished, then one would need to know where on the chip to look, and then, micron by micron, sort through the chip to find that data. Again, the process would take months.

One researcher, Dan Guido, who is the co-founder of the cyber security firm Trail of Bits, doesn’t think the cost “even matters,” because the risk of the procedure is too high. Just one slip up and the chip is damaged forever, with the information stored on it erased completely:

“What matters is the fact that if they screw up, if that laser or that X-ray is a couple of nanometers in the wrong direction, the whole chip is fried and they’ll never get any data off the phone,” he said, speculating that the evidence-reliant FBI would be unlikely to try something so risky. “This isn’t a cakewalk,” he said.”

It’s just one more conversation to be had in a laundry list of bullet points, on both sides of the fence, as this quickly turns into world news. As it stands, Apple is not alone in its stance in protecting the security of its users, as Google, Twitter, and other companies and executives have come forward to back Apple’s decision to fight the initial court order to help the FBI in its investigation. Donald Trump, a presidential candidate, doesn’t quite see it that way, and recently called for a boycott of Apple until the Cupertino-based company helps the FBI in their attempts to access the data on the iPhone 5c.

The Department of Justice even stepped in recently, filing a motion to force Apple to help the FBI, and even calling Apple’s ploy in focusing on security as nothing but a marketing move.

[via KTIC]