Latest in Culture

Image credit:

FBI bought 'a tool' to crack the San Bernardino iPhone

"...the government has purchased, from a private party, a way to get into that phone."
Billy Steele
April 7, 2016
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Last week, the US Justice Department dropped its encryption case against Apple thanks to a helping hand from a "third party." With some help, the government said it was able to access the contents of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone 5C, and this week FBI director James Comey provided a few more details. It turns out the US government bought what Comey refers to as "a tool" from that unnamed third party to do the hacking. Comey didn't give any indication as to whether or not the method existed already or if it was constructed after the legal battle began.

"Litigation between the government and Apple over the San Bernardino phone has ended, because the government has purchased, from a private party, a way to get into that phone, 5C, running iOS 9," Comey explained. He went on to say that the tool only works on a "narrow slice of phones," which we know includes the iPhone 5C. However, CNN reports that the method doesn't allow access to models like the iPhone 5S and newer handsets.

As you might expect, the FBI remains tight-lipped in regards to the identity of the third party who provided the help, offering only vague statements. "The people we bought this from, I know a fair amount about them, and I have a high degree of confidence that they are very good at protecting it," Comey said. "Their motivations align with ours."

The government is also considering whether or not to tell Apple how it access the information, but from the FBI director's statements, cooperation doesn't seem likely. "We tell Apple, then they're going to fix it, then we're back where we started from," Comey said. The FBI has, however, starting telling members of Congress how it hacked the phone, briefing high-ranking officials over the last week. We reached out to the FBI for more information on the matter and we'll update this post when/if we hear back.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Google's COVID-19 reports show where people are obeying stay-at-home orders

Google's COVID-19 reports show where people are obeying stay-at-home orders

View
Honeywell says it built the world's most powerful quantum computer

Honeywell says it built the world's most powerful quantum computer

View
Apple may bring 'real' home screen widgets to iOS 14

Apple may bring 'real' home screen widgets to iOS 14

View
UK phone masts attacked over bogus 5G coronavirus conspiracies

UK phone masts attacked over bogus 5G coronavirus conspiracies

View
Ten years in, a look at the iPad killers that weren't

Ten years in, a look at the iPad killers that weren't

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr