Israeli Firm Helping FBI to Open Encrypted iPhone

17332475398_ba30b765bf_bI think we just found out why the FBI bailed on the hearing over iPhone encryption earlier this week.

Israel’s Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is helping the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attempt to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California shooters, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on Wednesday.

If Cellebrite succeeds, then the FBI will no longer need the help of Apple, the Israeli daily said, citing unnamed industry sources.

Cellebrite officials declined to comment on the matter.

Apple is engaged in a legal battle with the U.S. Justice Department over a judge’s order that it write new software to disable passcode protection on the iPhone used by the shooter.

The two sides were set to face off in court on Tuesday, but on Monday a federal judge agreed to the government’s request to postpone the hearing after U.S. prosecutors said a “third party” had presented a possible method for opening an encrypted iPhone.

The development could bring an abrupt end to the high-stakes legal showdown which has become a lightning rod for a broader debate on data privacy in the United States.

Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sun Corp, has its revenue split between two businesses: a forensics system used by law enforcement, military and intelligence that retrieves data hidden inside mobile devices and technology for mobile retailers.


While I cannot tell you whether this story is true I can add that it is plausible.

Cellebrite pitches this kind of service on its website. “One of the greatest challenges faced in the forensic industry today is the need to quickly access mobile device evidence from locked Apple devices running iOS 8,” the site says, adding that “Cellebrite has a unique unlock capability for devices running iOS 8.x that will provide you with unprecedented access to evidence you can stand behind.”

Basically, there was never a need for the FBI to force Apple to develop a new firmware to make the iPhone more hackable. This type of service already existed, and that means that the FBI really was interested in setting a legal precedent rather than getting into the iPhone – just like everyone had guessed months ago.

image by C_osett


  1. Mackay Bell23 March, 2016

    It is also plausible that the FBI knew all along it could access the phone without Apple’s help but was seeking to establish a precedent by forcing Apple to do it for them. Perhaps to help them create a better tool to open up iPhones more quickly, or perhaps because they are worried that eventually Apple will create a phone that can’t be broken into and they want to make sure that door is never sealed to them. The FBI only backed off when it looked like they might lose in court (and the court of public opinion). This way they can try again in the future (perhaps when Apple has more pliable management or when public opinion won’t be on their side).

  2. Ellis23 March, 2016

    It’s hilarious that the NSA is attempting to make us believe that this is something they can’t do … and haven’t been doing.

    The agency that has the tech to track everyone’s phone calls throughout the world but, gee whiz, that iPhone encryption is just too tough?? LOL.

    Don’t you thing that, if they COULDN’T crack it, that they’d shut up about it rather than publicize it for every terrorist and hacker in the world?? Were I a bad guy, the iPhone is the LAST device I would use.

    1. Nate Hoffelder23 March, 2016

      Unless this is a misinformation campaign …

  3. Kevin25 March, 2016

    Surprising fact: “Cellebrite is a fully owned subsidiary of Sun Corporation, a publicly traded company listed on JASDAQ (6736/JQ) based in Nagoya, Japan.” (quote from Wikipedia)

    1. Nate Hoffelder26 March, 2016

      You’re right, that is interesting.


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