Cellebrite not involved in FBI iPhone hack

Contrary to previous reports, the Israeli firm Cellebrite was not the third party that assisted the FBI in unlocking an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernadino shooters, it has been confirmed.

The US government has noted that the unidentified company is not American, and also noted that it is “highly unlikely” that the company in question will reveal its identity as it holds exclusive rights over the unlocking technique used to access the iPhone 5C. It is believed that the technique only works on this model of iPhone, running a specific version of iOS.

In February, the FBI won a court order that would oblige Apple to help with cracking the security on the iPhone. However, the tech firm refused to create software that would allow the FBI to bypass standard security features, arguing that any “back door” could be exploited by hackers.

Apple received the backing of many major tech companies, but the FBI ultimately dropped the case as it had found a third party willing to help it hack the phone’s security. It is unlikely that even the FBI fully understands how the security bypass was achieved, making it unlikely that either the government or the FBI will share the technique with Apple to allow them to create a patch for it.

While the White House has a protocol in place wherein it will reveal any security vulnerabilities that it discovers to tech firms providing the benefits outweigh the risks, in this situation it is not applicable as the technique is essentially owned by the private third party – reportedly professional hackers who were paid a one-off fee to gain access to the device.

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