Apple in a fix after US govt hacked iPhone

SAN FRANCISCO • Now that the American government has cracked open an iPhone that belonged to a gunman in the San Bernardino mass shooting without Apple's help, the tech company is under pressure to find and fix the flaw.

But unlike other cases, Apple may face a higher set of hurdles in ferreting out and repairing the particular iPhone hole that the government hacked.

The challenges start with the lack of information about the method that law enforcement authorities, with the aid of a third party, used to break into the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, an attacker in the San Bernardino rampage last year in California. Federal officials have refused to give information on the party and procedure. Apple also cannot get the device to reverse-engineer the problem.

Making matters trickier, Apple's security operation has been in flux. The operation was reorganised late last year. A manager who had been responsible for handling most of the government's data extraction requests left the team to work in a different part of the company, according to four current and former Apple employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Other staff, among them one whose task included trying to hack Apple's own products, left the company.

The unusually prominent nature of this hacking creates a predicament for the company.

"Apple is a business, and it has to earn the trust of its customers," said Mr Jay Kaplan, chief executive of tech security company Synack and a former National Security Agency analyst. "It needs to be perceived as having something that can fix this vulnerability as soon as possible."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'Apple in a fix after US govt hacked iPhone'. Print Edition | Subscribe