As we reported yesterday, the FBI has postponed its court hearing with Apple regarding breaking into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Reportedly an Israeli firm called Cellebrite are the mysterious third party offering their hacking assistance.
According to Israeli national newspaper Yedioth Abronoth, Cellebrite’s team are experts on mobile forensics and have offered to help the U.S. Department of Justice bypass iOS security in order to access the potentially useful information on the shooter’s iPhone 5c.
The FBI previously stated that only Apple could help, but is now reaching out for assistance from third parties. If Cellebrite is successful, the FBI will no longer need Apple’s expertise and will likely abandon the postponed court hearing completely. If the plan fails, we’ll likely be back to the ongoing legal battle some time after April 5, which is the court-imposed deadline for the FBI to report an update.
Apple and CEO Tim Cook have repeatedly warned of the dangers of creating a backdoor into iOS, saying it could set a “dangerous precedent” and lessen the security of millions of customers’ data in one fell swoop.
If Cellebrite manage to exploit a weakness in iOS, Apple will want to know how it was done so it can improve security going forward. But at the same time, it would at least signal the end of this saga with no obligation for Apple to create a weakened version of its software.