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Hardware Hack Defeats Iphone Passcode Security

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A locked iPhone.

A University of Cambridge professor has defeated iPhone passcode security by cloning the handset's memory chips.

Credit: Huffington Post

University of Cambridge professor Sergei Skorobogatov has cloned iPhone memory chips, giving him an unlimited number of attempts to guess the passcode.

He says the breakthrough contradicts a claim made by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this year, as part of its probe into the San Bernardino, CA, terrorist attack, that this approach would not work. Skorobogatov created a YouTube video showing how he had removed a NAND chip from an iPhone 5C, which is the main memory storage system used on many Apple devices. Skorobogatov then determined how the memory system communicates with the phone so he could clone the chip.

"Because I can create as many clones as I want, I can repeat the process many many times until the passcode is found," he says.

Skorobogatov used this technique to find a four-digit code in about 40 hours of work. However, he notes finding a six-digit code could potentially take hundreds of hours.

The work shows law enforcement agencies should not look for software backdoors to help their investigations, but should develop or cultivate hardware and computer security skills, says Worcester Polytechnic Institute faculty member Susan Landau.

From BBC News
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