The FBI is reportedly enlisting the Israeli company Cellebrite to help it break into the iPhone of one of the terrorists behind last December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., experts familiar with the case have said.
The U.S. Justice Department is currently in the midst of a well-publicized feud with Apple after obtaining a court order demanding that Apple create software that would disable the password protection on the late terrorist’s phone. Apple has refused to do so on the grounds that the order is a government overreach and would undermine public security.
This week, U.S. prosecutors said a “non-governmental third party” has presented an alternative method to open the encrypted iPhone, and that they are “cautiously optimistic” this approach would work. This led a federal judge to postpone a hearing on the ongoing case until the FBI could try the alternative method.
Sources told Yedioth Ahronoth that Cellebrite, considered one of the leading companies in the world in the field of digital forensics, is the “third party” referenced by U.S. prosecutors and has been working with the world’s largest intelligence, defense, and law enforcement authorities for many years.
The Israeli company has not acknowledged its involvement, but it is known that Cellebrite provides the FBI with decryption technology as part of a contract signed with the bureau in 2013. The technology allows for extracting valuable information from cellular devices that could be used in criminal and intelligence investigations, even if the phone and the information it contains are locked and secure.
On Monday, Apple said that if the U.S. government succeeds in getting into the phone in an alternative manner, it would need to be through previously undiscovered vulnerabilities, which the company hopes the government will share.