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Law enforcement told not to look at suspects' Face ID-enabled iPhones

By midian182 · 13 replies
Oct 14, 2018
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  1. Earlier this month, it was reported that authorities had made someone unlock a modern iPhone by compelling them look at it. In what’s thought to be a world first, the FBI asked Columbus, Ohio, resident Grant Michalski, who was later charged with receiving and possessing child pornography, to place his face near his iPhone X so they could access its contents, which he did.

    Suspects are able to invoke their fifth amendment rights, which protect against self-incrimination, so they can refuse to hand over passcodes for electronic devices, but courts have forced people to unlock phones with their faces or fingerprints, which don’t have the same protections.

    In a presentation slide from forensics company Elcomsoft obtained by Motherboard, law enforcement agents are warned “don't look at the screen, or else.” If they do gaze at the front-facing camera five times, they’ll be locked out and have to enter a passcode.

    Back when Face ID was debuted in the iPhone X last year, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, failed to unlock the device while on stage. The demo unit asked for a passcode, forcing him to swap it for another iPhone X. He later revealed that staff setting up the event had been looking at the screen as they moved the phone around backstage. Once it failed to recognize five people, it locked. Elcomsoft references this incident in the slide.

    “This is quite simple. Passcode is required after five unsuccessful attempts to match a face,” Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Elcomsoft, told Motherboard. “So by looking into suspect’s phone, [the] investigator immediately lose one of [the] attempts.”

    Previously, law enforcement agencies were told to use the power button to turn on a Touch ID-enabled device, not the Home button. But with Face ID, it’s a lot easier to accidentally activate the security system and ‘lose’ an attempt.

    Permalink to story.

  2. qking

    qking TS Booster Posts: 53   +31

    You've heard of tape right? Put it over the camera. I mean geez, really?
    ForgottenLegion and MarkHughes like this.
  3. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,372   +1,371

    If you get arrested, turn off your phone :)
  4. ForgottenLegion

    ForgottenLegion TS Guru Posts: 355   +353

    iPhone users ;)
  5. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,372   +1,371

    First off, the point of protecting your phone is that law enforcement doesn't have a warrant to search your home.... But if they access incriminating stuff on your phone, that warrant is coming... once they have a warrant to search your home (this usually comes far later), they'll have access to your PC - AND your XBox (they'll find that too!).

    Obviously, the real solution is NOT to leave any incriminating data ANYWHERE!! If you absolutely must, make sure it's stored in some anonymous overseas server that only you have login info for....
  6. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 1,481   +1,679

    Or just dont set up faceID, only use a passcode. Bam, problem solved.
  7. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,372   +1,371

    Not really... they'll crack into it eventually....
  8. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 1,481   +1,679

    Ok, and?

    Did you not read the article you are commenting on? The police can force you to use your face/fingerprint to unlock a device, they CANT force you to give up a password.

    The issue here is police using biometrics to get into phones without a warrant, not using biometrics fixes the problem. Get it now?
  9. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,559   +1,924

    The EFF or someone really needs to take this to court, IMO. Protection against self-incrimination needs to be updated for the modern age, IMO.
    Cubi Dorf likes this.
  10. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,372   +1,371

    No, they can't... but had you read one of the numerous articles posted on here, you'd know that law enforcement are hacking into devices with relative ease... don't put ANYTHING on your device you aren't comfortable with them seeing :)
  11. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,372   +1,371


    If you search a bit you'll find tons of other articles on this website alone... warrants may be legally required - but it turns out they might not always be "needed" by law enforcement. CIA, NSA, FBI have had ways to crack your iphone (and any other smartphone) whenever they feel the need to get in for years... you not enabling Face ID will delay them for a few hours at most...

    Again - the only true solution is not to have any incriminating data on any devices...
  12. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,372   +1,371

    It certainly SHOULD be illegal... but when Federal agencies do things, the legality seems to take a back seat to "results"... Sure, they may slap the agent on the wrist a few years later - but that doesn't really help you, does it?
    Right side bob likes this.
  13. woofer

    woofer TS Enthusiast Posts: 42   +7

    Not using iPhone, but just curious if Face Id could be set up with wearing a certain set of glasses (old, battered ones?), and if you are pressed by LEO types, just "accidentally" step on the glasses (nervous shakes causing drop...), and there goes a key bit of the match. Would that work, or does Face Id "see through" your glasses?
  14. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,372   +1,371

    It sees through glasses.... but if your prescription is bad enough, you won't be able to unlock your phone without them, as your eyes need to focus on the phone...

    I have that problem in the morning, as my prescription is -9.00 and I can't open my phone until I put my glasses on...

    Now that I think on this though, all you need to do is look at your phone - but focus your eyes elsewhere (ie: look right or left of the actual camera) and after a few seconds, the phone will be locked...

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