Last week, there were two other techniques that went viral.
One combined a software engineer, a hardware engineer, and the very headliney security persona John McAfee, who went on TV to say that the FBI are idiots and that he could get into a locked iPhone in a half hour because the passcode is RIGHT. THERE. In PLAIN. TEXT. (It’s not.)
The second “OMG IF APPLE KNEW THIS AND TOLD FBI THEY COULD HAVE SAVED THE INFO ON THAT PHONE :$” technique was detailed in a YouTube video.
The 35-second clip is called “iPhone Unlock WITHOUT Passcode Glitch *New 2016*” and had been viewed over 440,000 times as of Monday morning, after being uploaded last Thursday, 3 March.
It seems to show a man unlocking an iPhone without knowing the user’s passcode, gaining access by using Siri to ask the iPhone what time it is.
When the phone displays the time, the guy clicks on the Timer option at the bottom of the screen and uses the “When Timer Ends” option to buy more tones from the App Store.
The video says that by tapping the home screen from the App Store, you’ll get taken back to the home screen.
Presto! Unlocked phone.
Cue the “ROFL!” comments, “APPLE #FAIL!”, yadda yadda yadda.
But many commenters did indeed report success unlocking an iPhone with the timer-buy more tones voodoo routine.
Hmm… but only sometimes… and not when they tried it on a friend’s phone… and not when they used another finger, besides their thumb, to access the “buy more tones” button…???
In fact, the viral video fails to make one key aspect clear: by hitting the home screen to activate Siri in the first place, users engage Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
Try using anything else – a fingernail, a knuckle, an unfortunate racoon – and it won’t work.
Commenter James Eichbaum1:
Works only if you initiate Siri using your thumb that is tied to security. Then it unlocks in background. Not doing so doesn’t work. Using a different finger, knuckle, whatever, does not work. Post another video using your knuckles and no print to prove me wrong.
No, James Eichbaum1, you are not wrong, as other commenters confirmed.
Even though there’s no visual cue that signals when your fingerprint has been registered, the iPhone is in fact unlocked, albeit in the background.
Trying the process on a locked phone would fail, with the Touch ID scanner keeping you from proceeding to the App Store.
As for John McAfee’s promise to pick apart the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist for the FBI, don’t hold your breath on that one.
Do, though, read Ars Technica’s explanation of why the only thing we have to look forward to is Mr. McAfee dining on shoe leather.