As Apple stands firm against requests to break iPhone encryption, many people have questioned why the FBI needs Apple’s help in the first place. There are plenty of tools available from third-party companies that are more than capable of unlocking the iPhone 5 and iPhone 7 used by the Pensacola gunman.

Further emphasizing that point, a new report from Forbes says that the FBI recently used one of those black/gray market tools to unlock the newest — and theoretically the most secure — iPhone that Apple sells.

According to the report, FBI investigators in Ohio used the GrayKey hardware box to unlock an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The phone in question belonged to Baris Ali Koch, who was being accused of helping his convicted brother escape the country by letting him use his passport.

Koch’s lawyer confirmed to Forbes that the iPhone in question was locked with a passcode, and that Koch had never given up that passcode, nor is it possible that Face ID could have been used. This corroborates Forbes’ claim that GrayKey was used.

The “GrayKey” is a hardware box sold by forensics firm Grayshift that has long been used by law enforcement and investigators to gain access to locked iPhones. Details about the GrayKey are usually kept under wraps, including whether it works on Apple’s newest operating systems and iPhones. This is generally to make it harder for Apple to patch the vulnerabilities Grayshift uses.

The two iPhones used by the Pensacola shooter were an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 7. As we’ve said before, the FBI can easily unlock these devices using third-party solutions. In fact, the FBI could likely use the same exploit it used to unlock the iPhone 5C used by the San Bernardino shooter in 2015.

So why are the FBI, Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and others all calling on Apple itself to break iPhone encryption? The most obvious possibility is that it’s a political move, designed to help push through legislation that would require Apple and other tech companies to include backdoors in all hardware and software.

There’s also the money argument. If Apple was required to build backdoors into iOS and the iPhone, the FBI would no longer have to pay firms like Grayshift and Cellebrite.

What do you think? Why is the FBI taking a public stance against Apple, when it seemingly knows and has even used tools capable of unlocking the iPhones? Let us know in the comments.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Longvadon Watch Bands

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel

About the Author