Cellebrite confirmed as FBI’s third party in iPhone security case

Israeli firm Cellebrite has been identified as the third party that provided assistance to the US government in bypassing Apple’s iPhone security.

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth confirmed that Cellebrite had helped the FBI as it attempted to unlock an iPhone that had been used by one of the two shooters responsible for the massacre in San Bernardino, California last year.

Prior to the revelation of the involvement of a “non-governmental third party”, the FBI had been pressuring Apple to provide a backdoor that would allow it to bypass the device’s security code. For its part, Apple steadfastly refused to comply, arguing that any security override could have far-reaching ramifications. The US government’s claim led it to abandon a previously-scheduled court hearing.

Cellebrite signed a contract with the FBI in 2013 which includes the provision of decryption technology. The company has declined to comment on the case, but the firm has been implicated in past hacking cases such as January’s report that the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) had accessed encrypted emails on BlackBerry devices using technology from Cellebrite.

The security of BlackBerry devices is a major part of the Canadian firm’s value proposition, and it responded that its devices are as “secure as they have always been”, adding that issues outside of the device’s security systems such as “user consent, an insecure third party application, or deficient security behaviour of the users” were likely responsible in the event of a breach.

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