The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are using a tool called GrayKey to unlock iPhones and assist with criminal investigations.
According to a recent Motherboard investigation, several local and regional police forces including the Maryland State Police and Indiana State Police departments have begun purchasing or are considering the purchase of GrayKey device used to open locked iPhones. Motherboard reports that police forces, including Miami-Dade County Police Department, may have also purchased the technology. According to emails obtained by Motherboard, the Secret Service has plans to buy at least six of the GrayKey devices used to unlock iPhones.
Grayshift, the Atlanta-based startup company behind the GrayKey device, was created by United States intelligence agency workers and an ex-Apple security engineer according to Forbes. Although Apple releases security patches regularly, the company claims it can unlock any iPhone.
How does the GrayKey, iPhone unlocking device work?
Cybersecurity company Malwarebytes reports the GrayKey box is four inches wide by four inches deep and sits two inches tall. The small gray box has two apple lightning cables in the front and can unlock two iPhones at one time.
The user plugs the iPhone into the device for about two minutes. After disconnecting the iPhone from the GrayKey device, the iPhone will display a black screen with the passcode and other information, according to Malwarebytes. The process can take anywhere between two hours and three days to complete the process, depending on how complex the passcode is.
Afte the iPhone is unlocked, all of its contents are downloaded to the GrayKey box. Users can download the data through a web-based application with the device connected to a computer.
How much does it cost?
The device comes in two versions, according to Malwarebytes. There is a $15,000 option and a $30,000 option. The $15,000 version requires an Internet connection. Once it’s activated it cannot be used on another internet network. The $30,000 option doesn’t need an internet connection and doesn’t have a limit on the phones it can unlock.
While $15,000 and $30,000 may seem extremely expensive for an individual looking to open locked iPhones, the cost is very little for law enforcement agencies looking to invest in tools to gather information.