Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Lock It All Down

Matt Apuzzo and Katie Benner, New York Times:

Apple built its recent operating systems to protect customer information. As Mr. Cook wrote in a recent letter to customers, “We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.”

But there is a catch. Each iPhone has a built-in troubleshooting system that lets the company update the system software without the need for a user to enter a passcode. Apple designed that feature to make it easier to repair malfunctioning phones.

In the San Bernardino case, the F.B.I. wants to exploit that troubleshooting system by forcing Apple to write and install new software that strips away several security features, making it much easier for the government to hack into the phone. The phone in that case is an old model, but experts and former Apple employees say that a similar approach could also be used to alter software on newer phones. That is the vulnerability Apple is working to fix.

The original headline of the linked article — as you can tell from its slug — was “Apple Is Said to Be Working on an iPhone Even It Can’t Hack”. When it was published, I was curious about the way that title was phrased; it seemed clear that it would be a hardware-related upgrade as it specified “an iPhone”, not iOS.

The article now carries a new title, “Apple Is Said to Be Trying to Make It Harder to Hack iPhones”. This headline is much less interesting than the one it replaced, but that change makes me equally curious. Perhaps some of these security features can be introduced via a software update.

Also, John Gruber is pretty convinced that this is a controlled leak; it certainly reads like it is. Apple rarely provides the press with advanced information of any kind, so when they do, it’s notable.