Apple has announced last August that it is set to release special iPhones that had fewer constraints to allow elite security researchers to find any security vulnerabilities more easily without having to go through standard iOS defenses. Researchers may apply to have one of these phones starting today.

Special iPhones for Elite Security Researchers

The technology company is opening its security device to researchers with an established track record of finding bugs in the iOS and those experts in other platforms who want to jump to iOS.

Apple will let the researchers borrow the device for a year and with the possibility that they can renew their application. Additionally, they will also have access to new security forums that is on the devices.

Once they find, test, validate, verify, or confirm any vulnerability issues with the device, they must inform Apple immediately or any relevant parties under the terms of agreement in their loan contract.

This special device will serve as an olive branch and help shore up the iPhone's security. Additionally, outside professionals can investigate iOS from a different angle to help home in on problems that may happen once an attacker bypasses iOS defenses.

Not up until now, security researchers have to resort to jailbreaks and third-party emulators to gain insight into the iPhone security. However, Apple has aggressively attempted to stop those efforts like the development and security firm Corellium who made an iOS emulator last year.

Apple argues that jailbreaks result in imperfect research because of the differences from an unadulterated iOS, and it only works on outdated hardware or old versions of the firmware.

The iOS-focused security researchers find the new devices useful in many ways as they will be granted unlimited permissions to the operating system. Through this, it will be easier to spot vulnerabilities. It will make it easier for them to analyze how the software of Apple and third-party applications behave and manage data.

Patrick Wardle, an Apple security researcher, said that security researchers have proven to be successful in identifying flaws in the iOS and the security and privacy issues of third-party apps.

"Armed with these new devices, they are likely only going to find more. Being able to audit and analyze third-party apps more easily on modern devices running the latest version of iOS would be lovely. It's ultimately a big win for Apple's users and Apple itself," says Wardle.

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Unlimited access to a Portion of iOS

Wardle and other security researchers such as Will Strafach, a longtime iOS researcher and creator of the iOS' Guardian Firewall app, point out that the special devices only give unrestricted access to a portion of iOS.

Strafach added that it is a good start for vulnerabilities in user-facing apps, easily fixed by an iOS update. But Apple appears to intentionally prohibit poking at lower level defenses, which are more challenging to address.

The special device is carefully designed to behave like consumer products and give the security researchers as much insight as possible without exposing or risking hundreds of millions of iOS devices worldwide, Apple said.

The researchers agree that the degree to which the device fosters goodwill depends on how helpful the device would turn out on practice will it affect.

But this special device will not magically reveal and eliminate all iOS privacy and security issues due to the small number of tools the researchers have at their disposal. However, anything that offers more insight is still a significant step forward.

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