Recent events like the September, 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California have thrust the issue the smartphone encryption into the spotlight — particularly with regards to how law enforcement agencies have grappled, much to Apple’s chagrin, in their attempts to gain unbridled access into iPhones belonging to the criminally culpable..
Now, a startup company called Grayshift has allegedly emerged on the scene offering a new product that, according to a report by Forbes, claims to be able to unlock any iPhone model (including iPhone X) for law enforcement agencies looking to make their way into a user’s data.
The tool, dubbed GrayKey, was showcased in a spate of marketing materials provided to the publication and promises to unlock iPhone models capable of connecting to the internet at a rate of $15,000 for every 300 units — or just $50 apiece.
Alternatively, agencies who sign onto the company’s program have the option to perform an unlimited number of “offline” iPhone unlocks — able to be carried out without requiring internet connectivity — for a flat $30,000, the firm says.
Grayshift claims that, at present, GrayKey is able to unlock all iPhone models, including iPhone 8 and iPhone X, running iOS 10 or 11 — while support for iOS 9 devices is well on the way.
Forbes, upon receiving a copy of the aforementioned materials, conducted its own investigation into the firm, which revealed that at least one former Apple engineer may be directly involved — as a principal, or high-level executive/co-owner — of Grayshift and its core product.
Though the publication conceded it was unable to confirm the principal’s identity beyond the shadow of a doubt given the firm’s understandably secretive business dealings, it noted that at least two former security engineers are listed as principals at Grayshift.
Moreover, according to a Forbes’ source who requested anonymity to share details on the matter, GrayKey has already been seen in the wild successfully unlocking an iPhone X device.
While the marketing materials don’t reveal much about how the tool actually works to exploit and unlock iPhones, according to Forbes, “GrayKey works on disabled iPhones and can extract the full file system,” which indicates it may operate via a technique known as ‘brute force’ hacking — a method of making super-fast, repetitive guesses at the passcode until one ultimately cracks it.
Apple declined to comment on both the Forbes report, as well as Grayshift’s claims about their product.
Interestingly, this morning’s news comes just a week after the Israeli-based data extraction firm, Cellebrite, announced a similar service the firm claims is able to unlock iPhones running iOS 11 for “as little as” $1,500 per device — making Grayshift’s service a clear bargain, comparatively.
Of course, both of these services cost far less than the reported $1 million that the FBI paid out to unlock an iPhone 5c belonging to San Bernardino terrorist suspect Syed Rizwan Farook.