FBI Paid Hackers to Unlock San Bernardino iPhone
The FBI paid professional hackers to unlock the suspected San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone after a months-long unsuccessful attempt to force Apple to create decryption software, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The hackers reportedly discovered and alerted the bureau to at least one previously unknown security flaw in the phone’s software, which they then used to create hardware that helped the FBI crack the phone’s passcode.
Previous speculation on who would help the FBI in lieu of Apple had pointed to the Israeli security firm Cellebrite, but the bureau apparently turned to a different service in this case, the Post noted.
Reporter Ellen Nakashima writes:
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“Some of the most admired tech experts/hackers are those who find vulnerabilities/exploits & sell them to the US govt,” tweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald.
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The government must now decide whether to disclose the security flaws to Apple, Nakashima wrote, “a decision that probably will be made by a White House-led group.”
FBI director James Comey has previously expressed hesitation at sharing the information, positing last week that Apple would “fix it and then we’re back where we started from.” He said the hack only works on iPhone 5C models running the iOS 9 operating system.
But as experts have long noted, there is more at stake than just one case or one phone, and new risks are raised through this development. Whistleblower Edward Snowden said Wednesday on Twitter, “Prediction: FBI’s refusal to disclose security holes found during iPhone hack will result in attack being globally available by year’s end.”
Andrew Crocker, staff attorney with the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, added:
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