Game Of Phones: Did FBI Work With Cellebrite To Break iPhone's Encryption?


Ending legal battle that was on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Department of Justice let go of Apple's twisted arm and has proceeded with its investigation into last year's San Bernardino Massacre. However, there are questions and conflicting reports on who helped the FBI into the shooter's iPhone.

After court orders and appeals of those orders and motions to stay, the back and forth between the FBI and Apple ended with the bureau filing a motion to vacate a March 22 hearing with the tech firm. The bureau had found a way to access the data on shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone 5C without the assistance of Apple.

The DOJ filed the motion to vacate the hearing with Apple because an outside party came forward with a possible way to unlock the iPhone, though the Justice Department declined to reveal the source of the assistance.

There had been some speculations that the FBI had been working with Israel's Cellebrite Mobile Synchronization, on a solution. But a Washington Post report, citing a senior law enforcement official, indicated that the FBI and DOJ weren't assisted by Cellebrite.

The firm that came forward with a fix "charged a one-time flat fee," according to the officials.

Citing its own set of sources, a Bloomberg report asserted that the FBI had been working with Cellebrite to unlock the iPhone, but that doesn't necessarily mean the Israeli firm was the party that finally broke through.

However, Cellebrite was awarded its biggest FBI contract to day, $218,000, on the same day the bureau reported that an outside party had stepped up with a solution.

The FBI has been working with Cellebrite for years, relying on the tech firm to clone and crack mobile device data. The company got its start in the late 90s, rescuing data from damaged phones, and eventually began offering its tools to law enforcement agencies looking to secure evidence stored on mobile devices.

Now that the FBI has a way to get past the iPhone 5C's encryption, state and local law enforcement agencies have clamoring for details on the technique so that they can crack open iPhones and active cases.

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