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Apple World Today News Update: April 16, 2018

Welcome to another week in the weather-wacky month of April. Today we talk about a new feature that may be on the way to watchOS, how quickly a law enforcement tool called GrayKey can crack iOS passcodes, and ponder Apple’s next exercise challenge:

  • watchOS 5 may come with support for third-party watch faces…or not
  • Grayshift’s GrayKey box can break your four-digit passcode in about 6 minutes, 30 seconds…so if you’re a criminal it might help to give your iPhone a long, complex alphanumeric passcode
  • There’s an Earth Day exercise challenge coming up

The text version of the podcast can be read below. To listen to the podcast here, click the play button on the player below. Apple News readers need to visit Apple World Today in order to listen to the podcast.

Text Version

This is Steve Sande for Apple World Today, and you’re listening to the AWT News Update podcast for Monday, April 16th, 2018.

watchOS 4.3.1 is in beta right now, and as usual an enterprising developer dissected the code of the beta operating system and found something rather interesting. Guilherme Rambo found some code in the beta with a log message that said “This is where the 3rd party face config bundle generation would happen.” What does that mean? It suggests that Apple may be working on support for third party watch faces. Rambo says that “It’s clear from the wording of the message that this feature is not implemented at the moment, but it’s definitely something Apple has planned. This new capability could come as soon as watchOS 5 or be dropped altogether. I personally hope they go forward with it since it’d be pretty cool to be able to install new watch faces on my Apple Watch”. Having seen some examples of third-party Fitbit Versa watch faces, it may not be a good idea.

Last week we had a story about a bipartisan group of congressmen wanting the FBI to explain why they didn’t explore “all options” on cracking iPhone encryption before calling out Apple in court for not allowing back doors in its operating systems. Well, Motherboard found that the latest iPhone cracking tool that is sold only to law enforcement agencies is pretty powerful — yet another reason the FBI was obviously on a vendetta against Apple. The GrayKey, a product from Grayshift, works with all modern iPhones and even the latest versions of iOS 11. Motherboard found that a common 4 digit passcode could be cracked in 6.5 minutes average, 13 minutes worst case; a 6 digit passcode would take about 11.1 hours average, 22.2 hours in the worst case; an 8 digit passcode would keep the device busy for 46 days on average and 93 days at worst, and a 10 digit passcode would really tie things up, taking about 12 years, 9 months on average to crack and over 25 years at the worst. Security experts say that if you don’t want to have your device cracked, you should use an alphanumeric passcode instead, that’s at least seven characters long and uses numbers, letters and symbols. The GrayKey device also seems to bypass the built-in security options to erase an iPhone after 10 incorrect guesses of the passcode, as well as the automatic delays that occur when a bad guess happens more than five times. This device can work on two iPhones at once and installs proprietary software onto the iPhone in about two minutes. It then gets to work trying to crack the passcode. If you’re in law enforcement and want a GrayKey box, it’ll set you back $15,000 for a geofenced version for labs and $30,000 version that can be used anywhere.

Next Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. Apple’s put together an Activity Challenge for Apple Watch wearers and notifications will appear on Friday, April 20th. All you have to do is get the special sticker is to do any workout for 30 minutes or more on April 22nd and record your activity in the Workout watchOS app. There’s no word on how Apple plans to counteract the extra carbon dioxide — a known greenhouse gas — the millions of Apple Watch wearers will pump into the atmosphere during the challenge…

That’s all the news for today – join me tomorrow afternoon for another edition of the AWT News Update.

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Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Steve is the founder and former publisher of Apple World Today and has authored a number of books about Apple products. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist. Steve and his wife Barb love to travel everywhere!