Company reportedly unlocking terrorist's iPhone 5c for the FBI, also does work for Apple

Company reportedly unlocking terrorist's iPhone 5c for the FBI, also does work for Apple
The other day, we passed along a report that named Israeli company Cellebrite as the firm supposedly getting paid $15,278 by the FBI to open up Syed Farook's iPhone. The government turned to a third party to open the phone after Apple repeatedly refused to comply with a court order that would have forced it to develop a unique version of iOS to open the handset. Apple's concern is that by developing this so-called "Govt. OS," the code might get into the wrong hands making every iPhone in the world vulnerable to attack.

As it turns out, Cellebrite machines can be found inside Apple's retail stores. There, they are employed by reps who use it to transfer contact lists and other content from an old phone to a just purchased iPhone. What is interesting is that Cellebrite's website points out that its machines work with iPhones running iOS 8, but doesn't mention iOS 9. Yet, the Apple iPhone 5c that was used by Farook contains iOS 9.

Cellebrite's name came up after the FBI said that it was cancelling a court hearing that was scheduled to take place last Tuesday. At the time, the Feds said that it would no longer need the court to force Apple's cooperation since it found a third party to unlock Farook's iPhone. Additionally, a contract was discovered online on that very same day that showed the FBI agreeing to pay Cellebrite $15,278 to handle some job for it. It seemed like too much of a coincidence not to expect this to be related to the unlocking of the deceased terrorist's handset.

The fear that law enforcement officials have is that without knowing the passcode of a locked iPhone, information inside the device could get wiped after ten incorrect attempts to enter the code. To combat that, another firm called Rook Security has come up with a method to create a copy of the flash memory on an iPhone. The hope is that a backup will allow law enforcement to restore data that was wiped after ten incorrect attempts to crack the passcode.

With all of these security companies focused on selling their services to the government, it should come as no surprise when Syed Farook's phone is finally unlocked without Apple's involvement. Jeremy Kirby, sales director at Cellebrite competitor Susteen sums up the current situation. "Anything is crackable," Kirby says. "It's just how much time do you have and how much money do you have to spend."

source: AP via BGR

Related phones

iPhone 5c
  • Display 4.0" 640 x 1136 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A6, Dual-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB
  • Battery 1507 mAh(10h 3G talk time)

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28 Comments

1. zeppo

Posts: 200; Member since: Jul 21, 2015

McFee will does it for free. Why didn't FBI ... ? BTW, if Cellebrite or any third party can open it so that means iOS is not secured after all like they said

2. FluffyBled unregistered

That last sentence though xD! No system is safe!

4. Trakker

Posts: 283; Member since: Feb 11, 2016

Very clever to use an Israeli firm because any American criticising Israel for any reason are somehow seen as anti-American.

16. aReefer

Posts: 52; Member since: Mar 21, 2015

Very clever indeed considering that many of the core components for modern cellphones were developed there - and that Apple itself has also opened R&D facilities there - not to mention the many Israeli tech startups they have bought-out to improve innovation in their next generations of iPhones.

5. zebramall1101

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 26, 2016

Ok am I the only one who would have requested a LOT more from the government for hacking the iPhone?? While I know we the citizens pay for that charge in the end, $15,278 isn't a lot for a big business like Cellebrite. It would be curious to see how they came to such a paltry sum.

7. Subie

Posts: 2364; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

The publicity that Cellebrite is now receiving is far more valuable then the money earned for opening up one phone.

51. Plutonium239

Posts: 1215; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

I would think they offered a discount because they are interested in breaking into a terrorists phone to help uncover accomplices.

6. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

"Anything is crackable" 100% agreed. Nothing made by man is unhackable by man.

9. OfficialAndroidOpinion

Posts: 19; Member since: Mar 24, 2016

Certainly anything made by those clowns at Apple. #seeTheLight

10. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

It may be easier with apple's software and devices, considering they're the most vulnerable on the planet (even worse than flash that they despise): http://www.dereferer.org/?http%3A%2F%2Fbit%2Ely%2F1SswEXw But doesn't make it impossible with Android/Linux nor Windows.

25. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

That is an amazing link lmao

48. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

That report is full of errors.

52. Plutonium239

Posts: 1215; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

It depends on which variant of Windows. Although I agree with the general statement that it is not impossible to break into any OS, however, I have yet to see any evidence of anyone being able to break into Windows Phone 8, 8.1 or Windows 10 Mobile. The only system that would be next to impossible to break into is one that is non-networked, heavily guarded with multiple layers of physical security, requires some special piece of hardware to boot it and the storage is encrypted to a degree that would take even a quantum computer decades to crack(which would be very insane encryption).

22. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Common sense.

12. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Why the big hoopla about Apple designing a gov iOS then? Since they can do this.

14. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Apple doesn't want to be the creator of iCancer...

15. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Why is everyone acting like Cellebrite is a new thing? Cellebrite has been around for a long time, it's what cell carriers used to transfer contacts and such from a customer's old phone to their new one. In fact, before we had all these leakers posting info, most upcoming phone confirmation came from a device being added to Cellebrite's database. This is not a new thing, look it up. http://www.phonearena.com/search/term/Cellebrite

19. darkkjedii

Posts: 31055; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I'm glad Apple put their foot down, and kept it down.

40. S-R-K

Posts: 304; Member since: Mar 15, 2016

"You would be glad, because you are a big Apple blind Fanboys". Here is what I have not seen addressed. Apple is acting like the only way to open THAT PARTICULAR PHONE is to put in a 'back door' that will affect all their phones. Why can't they just open that one? If that can be done, their intransigence would be completely ridiculous. And, while I'm typing this on a MacBookPro, this would be the LAST Apple product I'd buy. Who wants to do business with a company that protects known terrorists?

65. 47AlphaTango

Posts: 729; Member since: Sep 27, 2015

If it was an android device. And the device is tightly secured. Then, it was used by the terrorists. Afterwards, after getting the terrorists android device and wants Google to unlock the device. And Google refuses them. Would you respond the same comment as the same as your doing to Apple right now. I'm a hybrid user and I know when to judge in a right place.

23. oozz009

Posts: 520; Member since: Jun 22, 2015

HA! I knew there was something fishy in this story!

37. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

maybe apple order (and help) that company to crack that phone, just because they dont want to face FBI in the court (and thats why FBI pay relatively small amount to get that phone cracked)

24. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

What this company is doing for the DOJ is not what the DOJ was asking Apple to do. The DOJ asked Apple to make a special OS that they can't easily get into anytime they want. This company is just going to try to break into the phone like a robber breaking into your house.

27. Subie

Posts: 2364; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

A robber BREAKS and enters. This is more like you hiring a locksmith to pick the deadbolt because you lost your key.

26. Sebaeza

Posts: 4; Member since: Mar 11, 2016

FBI knew they could do this for years now, they just wanted Apple to give them a master key so no phone would be safe

60. techman82

Posts: 41; Member since: Oct 08, 2015

The whole thing is really embarrassing for the fbi, that they can't get into a phone!

61. techman82

Posts: 41; Member since: Oct 08, 2015

Think laws will change once trump gets in office

64. Plutonium239

Posts: 1215; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

Trump may not get the Republican nomination, but if he does, he will lose badly in the general election.

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