Who Hacked the iPhone for FBI? Clues Point to…
The U.S. government's announcement Monday that it hacked into the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone 5C ended the FBI's legal feud with Apple. However, it doesn't end the overarching battle about privacy and security. At the same time, people are guessing who is the FBI's helper to unlock the terrorist's iPhone? To answer this question, let's first clarify the process of the battle between FBI and Apple.
The Whole Battle between Apple and FBI
- In the days after the December 2015 massacre in San Bernardino, California, which killed 14 people and wounded 22 others, the iPhone 5c left behind by one of the shooters, Syed Farook, was secretly flown to the FBI.
- The FBI had been unable to review the phone's contents due to a security feature that -- after 10 failed attempts to enter the 4-digit access code -- would render the phone's files forever inaccessible.
- In February, 2016, the FBI was at an impasse with Apple, which fought a court order telling the company to help authorities bypass the security feature. Apple simply rejected the FBI's order to do so on the grounds that creating the software that does the deed is an undue burden and an extremely dangerous legal precedent. But the FBI insisted it had a responsibility to access any data potentially relevant to the deadly terror attack in San Bernardino.
- As the legal battle played out, the FBI appealed to cyber experts around the world for help.
- This past weekend -- just days ago -- The Department of Justice has dropped its case against Apple, and "the FBI has now successfully retrieved the data stored on" the phone, according to the Justice Department.
So, Who Hacked the iPhone for the FBI
Israel's Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is helping the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's attempt to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California shooters, according to Israeli newspaper the Yedioth Ahronoth and Reuters.
FBI inked a $15,000 contract with Cellebrite for "information technology software" at the same day it told the court it found an "outside party".
Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan's Sun Corp, has its revenue split between two businesses: a forensics system used by law enforcement, military and intelligence that retrieves data hidden inside mobile devices and technology for mobile retailers. From Cellebrite, it's unlocking capability supports the following devices: iPhone 4S / 5 / 5C, iPad 2 / 3G / 4G,iPad mini 1G, and iPod touch 5G running iOS 8 - 8.0 / 8.0.1/ 8.0.2 / 8.1 / 8.1.1 / 8.1.2 / 8.1.3 / 8.2/ 8.3 / 8.4 / 8.4.1.
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Another Surprise: Even Apple Uses Tech from Cellebrite
Cellebrite has contracts with the FBI dating back to 2014, Associated Press says, but also commercial products that can be used to transfer data from older phones to new ones. Apple uses Cellebrite devices in some of its stores, the report says.
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Next, Turn our Attention Back to Privacy and Security
Although the government officially withdrew from its battle against Apple Monday, many observers sense the tech privacy war is just getting started. Are you the FBI supporter or the Apple supporter? Or are you just the privacy supporter? Share your opinions in the comments section below.