John McAfee, Miami Beach, Florida, Dec. 13, 2012
Above, John McAfee addresses media representatives in Miami Beach, Florida, Dec. 13, 2012. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

John McAfee, the anti-virus program pioneer and gadfly U.S. presidential candidate, claimed that unlocking the Apple iPhone of Syed Farook, one of the shooters who carried out a deadly attack in San Bernardino, California, late last year, is a “trivial” exercise and explained how it should take the FBI just 30 minutes to complete it.

McAfee, who is among 12 candidates vying for the Libertarian Party nomination to run for president this year, spoke to Russia Today about the continuing debate over the FBI’s attempt to force Apple Inc. to unlock the iPhone 5C used by the terrorist by creating a specific version of iOS to bypass security. The federal agency and the company will appear before Congress to debate the issue Tuesday.

However, McAfee indicated he believes unlocking the iPhone is a “trivial” matter and that the FBI knows this, adding that if it doesn’t, then “we are in deep trouble.” And he said that if the FBI is indeed aware of how trivial it is to unlock the iPhone, then it is deceiving the public by “asking for a universal key” to access Apple’s smartphones.

According to McAfee, this is how the FBI could unlock Farook’s iPhone.

“You need a hardware engineer and a software engineer. The hardware engineer takes the phone apart, and copies the instruction set [the phone’s mobile operating system and installed applications] and the memory. You then run a program called a disassembler, which takes the 1s and 0s and gives you readable instructions,” McAfee said.

“Then the [software engineer] sits down and reads through it. What he is looking for is the first access to the keypad, because that is the first thing you do when you input your [personal identification number]. When he sees that, he reads the instructions for where in memory the secret code is stored.”

McAfee previously wrote he would be able to decrypt the San Bernardino iPhone free of charge so that Apple wouldn’t have to put a backdoor into one of its products. At the time, he said it would take three weeks, but he has now suggested he offered that time frame just as a precaution so he basically wouldn’t have to eat his words later.

The trivial nature of unlocking an iPhone does not serve as an indictment of Apple, McAfee said, as “any computer can be [cracked], and it is a half hour job.”


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