While the FBI paid more than £900,000 and underwent a court case to try to get the iPhone 5 belonging to the San Bernadino terrorist unlocked, a Cambridge University computer scientist has managed to do it for just £75, says reports on Tuesday 20 September).
A worldwide privacy debate was sparked when the FBI took Apple to court to get the iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook unlocked in February 2016..
Apple CEO Tim Cook said unlocking the phone would "undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect".
However, after the case was dropped, the FBI paid a security firm an estimated £900,000 ($1.3m) to access the device.
But Sergei Skorobogatov from the University of Cambridge came up with a Eureka moment when he "mirrored" the phone's memory - held on a NAND Flash chip - onto a second chip, which gave him unlimited attempts to guess the phone's password. Most iPhones lock after 10 unsuccessful attempts to enter the code.
It is time consuming as finding a four-digit code took him 40 hours, and a six digit code could take hundreds of hours but Skorobogatov said the method could be tweaked to reduce the time.
He pointed out that the method could also be used to crack more recent iPhone models, including the iPhone 6.
According to Sky News, Skorobogatov said: "The process does not require any expensive and sophisticated equipment. All needed parts are low cost and were obtained from local electronic distributors."
Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015. The FBI said nothing of significance had been found on Farook's phone.