After 5 Years of Ignorance, it Finally Became Known Who Jailbroken The San Bernardino Terrorist's iPhone


The iPhone of the terrorist who staged the shooting in San Bernardino, California, USA in December 2015, became a cornerstone in the confrontation between the FBI and Apple. The tech company has denied law enforcement assistance in unlocking the device, citing protecting the privacy of its users. According to Apple, having unlocked one iPhone at the request of the authorities, it will eventually have to do it all the time, which is contrary to its position regarding the data of its users. Due to this, the FBI got help from a third party who hasn't been divulged for five years. Apple even didn't know who helped them.


Azimuth Security, according to The Washington Post, hacked into a terrorist's iPhone to help them locate encrypted communications. The company avoids "shining" and assures the public that it only sells its hacking tools to government officials in democrat countries.

The San Bernardino shooter's iPhone was unlocked by two security researchers from Azimuth Security. The first is the company's founder, former IBM X-Force researcher, 41-year-old Australian hacker and marathon runner Mark Dowd. According to his colleagues, in order to hack into a computer, Daud only needs to look at it. He was even called "Mozart in creating exploits." The second researcher is former Yale student David Wang, who at the age of 27 received the Pwnie Award (a kind of Oscar in the world of hackers) for jailbreaking the iPhone.

Even before the San Bernardino terrorist attack, Daud had discovered a vulnerability in Mozilla's open-source code, which Apple used to allow accessories to be connected to the iPhone via the Lightning port. However, at that time, Azimuth Security was busy with other projects, and the development of an exploit was not a priority for her.

Two months after the terrorist attack, speaking before the US Congress, FBI Director James Comey said that the bureau still could not unlock the smartphone, which could store the data necessary for the investigation. Then Daoud thought about the possibility of offering his help to the authorities. Around this time, he was contacted by an FBI spokesman, and the researcher contacted Wang.

Using the vulnerability Dowd discovered, Wang developed an exploit that allows him to gain initial access to the iPhone. He then tied it to another exploit that provided more manoeuvrability. Next, Wang added to the chain the latest exploit previously created for the iPhone by another Azimuth Security researcher. This gave him full control over the central processing unit of the phone. Wang wrote software that quickly tried every passcode combination, bypassing the security features.

Wang and Dowd tested their exploit (Wang called it Condor) on dozens of iPhone 5Cs and it worked great. In mid-March 2016, researchers showed their solution at FBI headquarters, showing Comey and other executives how Condor could unlock the iPhone 5C. The FBI laboratory ran a series of successful tests to ensure the exploit was effective.

According to some experts, by hacking the terrorist's smartphone for the FBI, the Azimuth Security researchers actually did Apple a huge service, because otherwise everything could end up with the court ordering it to introduce backdoors into its products.

According to The Washington Post's sources, the FBI officers were relieved to get hold of the exploit, but they were also somewhat disappointed. They realized that otherwise the court could once and for all bring legal clarity to the ongoing debate over whether the government could force the company to crack its own encryption in order to enforce the law.

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