FBI Took Help of ‘Professional Hackers’ and Not Cellebrite to Crack San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone 5c

Touch ID on iPhone

Up until now, it was widely believed that FBI had taken the help of an Israeli forensics company Cellebrite to unlock the iPhone 5c of the San Bernardino’s shooter. However, a new report from The Washington Post claims that FBI had taken the help of “professional hackers” who managed to achieve this feat using a flaw in Apple’s software that the company does not know about.

The flaw was used to create a piece of hardware that allowed the FBI to crack the iPhone’s four-digit PIN lock whilst making sure its security mechanism is not tripped that would have otherwise erased all data from the phone.

These “professional hackers” usually keep a low profile, and in certain situations, do sell the exploits discovered by them to the U.S. government. For unlocking Farook’s iPhone 5c, the hackers were paid a one-time flat fee.

The report also claims that at least one of the person who helped the FBI in this case was a “gray hat” hacker i.e. a hacker who sells flaws to government agencies or companies in exchange for money. Interestingly, The Washington Post completely shoots down previous reports of the FBI using Cellebrite services to unlock Farook’s iPhone 5c, despite evidence suggesting otherwise.

The FBI and government have not yet decided on whether they will be revealing the exploit behind the hack to Apple or not. The Cupertino company has also decided not to sue the FBI to find out the exploit used by them.

[Via The Washington Post]