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FBI paying Cellebrite $15,278 to open Syed Farook's Apple iPhone 5c?

Posted: , by Alan F.

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FBI paying Cellebrite $15,278 to open Syed Farook's Apple iPhone 5c?
Just the other day, on the eve of what promised to be a three-ring circus inside a courtroom, the DOJ asked a judge to cancel a hearing scheduled between Apple and the DOJ. The government was trying to force Apple to develop a unique OS that would be used to unlock the Apple iPhone 5c used by deceased terrorist Syed Farook. The government hopes that the phone contains clues to the attack carried out by Farook and his wife that left 14 dead. 

Apple's concern is that in building this so-called Govt.OS, someone will discover the code which would allow them to break into any iPhone in the world. If this were to occur, no longer would iPhone users feel secure about leaving personal information inside their phone. While Apple has been stonewalling Uncle Sam, the FBI has been looking for other ways to open up the terrorist's iPhone.

On Monday, the feds hit pay dirt. The FBI announced that it had found a third party to unlock Farook's phone. Who was this unnamed hacker who could do something that Apple said couldn't be done? According to Reuters, Israeli company Cellebrite is working with the FBI to open Farook's phone. You might recall that many carriers used to use a Cellebrite machine to move a user's phone contacts over from an old phone to a newly purchased one.

Another piece of information apparently confirms that the FBI is counting on Cellebrite to unlock Farook's iPhone 5c Twitter user Zen Albatross has discovered that the FBI signed a contract on Monday with the Israeli firm. Considering that Monday was the day that the FBI proclaimed that it had a third party that could break into Farook's iPhone 5c, it seems more than a coincidence that Cellebrite signed a contract with the FBI on the very same day.

So how much is the FBI paying Cellebrite to open a terrorist's iPhone? According to published information about the contract, the FBI is paying the company $15,278 to do the job.

Cellebrite's own website notes that it has the "unique capability" to unlock devices running iOS 8.x "in a forensically sound manner and without any hardware intervention or risk of device wipe." While that sounds like good news for the FBI, Farook's phone is powered by iOS 9. Still, there isn't any indication that the mobile forensics firm can't unlock iPhone models running that build.

Cellebrite signed a contract with the FBI on Monday

Cellebrite signed a contract with the FBI on Monday

source: @zenalbatross via Reuters

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posted on 24 Mar 2016, 16:43 2

1. TheMan (Posts: 493; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


So, (I'm guessing) $1 million in legal fees down the drain...

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 16:46

3. kajam (Posts: 211; Member since: 24 Jun 2015)


posted on 24 Mar 2016, 19:48

29. ph00ny (Posts: 1507; Member since: 26 May 2011)

I've used their older devices and they're actually pretty cool. I remember using it on blackberry and ended up recovering 4k deleted text messages

posted on 26 Mar 2016, 00:29 1

43. TheHitman1982 (Posts: 71; Member since: 30 Dec 2014)

If this happens and do actually break into the phone Apple should sue the FBI and Cellebrite for violating their terms of service.

posted on 26 Mar 2016, 10:33

44. KRONeage (Posts: 144; Member since: 17 Apr 2011)

Dude? lol.... Are you for REAL??? ahahaha... I know Apple fans are usually religiously addicted Apple always being right and the fact they think that DoJ are criminals for prosecuting their God Almighty Corporate Dictatorship, for the illegal government monitoring of their Price Fixing Corporate Criminal eBooks Scandal. You people seem to think Apple can do no wrong!

Get real.... they are conducting an investigation of a Terrorist Attack, where many Americans lost their lives. Now you seem to not be supporting either Apple unlocking or disabling elementary security features or Law Enforcement should be branded and prosecuted for getting the phone unlocked??? Are iDiot Nuts For REAL???

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 16:53 1

4. izim1 (Posts: 1259; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)

No way. Phonearena users were all over here claiming the government had the best hackers in the world working for measly government pay. So why would the FBI pay an Israeli company $15k to do something their top of the line hackers can do? This doesn't make any sense...

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 16:57 1

5. xondk (Posts: 1904; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)

I don't think its that simple, you'd think FBI 'would' have the best people they could have, yet apparently they don't? and apparently they say things left right and center when it comes to technology that makes little sense in terms of security? so yeah......

Maybe they should hire people that actually know what they are doing instead of those they currently have?

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 17:28 1

11. izim1 (Posts: 1259; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)

They can't afford to hire the best. That's what I've been trying to explain to all these people who believe their TV shows are accurate representations. The post you replied to was obvious sarcasm. The government does NOT have the top software people. They have the rejects who couldn't get a high paying job at a major tech company. They don't have better programmes/coders/developers than Apple, google, Samsung, etc. and they probably never will. No one is THAT patriotic to turn down 6 figures for $50k a year to work for the government...

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 17:48 1

15. xondk (Posts: 1904; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)

You would think they would pay people better then, I mean with as much money as the US uses on military and intelligence....yeah..

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 17:55

18. izim1 (Posts: 1259; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)

I have zero intention of getting into the military budget argument with anyone online because, for whatever reason, people just absolutely refuse to understand. No matter how much in detail it is explained to them. They either just don't care, just like to argue, or honestly just can't grasp what's being explained.

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 18:47

27. xondk (Posts: 1904; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)

Oh it isn't so much the budget argument, or wanting to argue, it is more that I wonder what the heck 4%+ of GDP on military and such is actually used for, if part of it isn't going to secure people with a good enough pay.
(GDP % might have fallen? to below 4?)
Kinda like here in Denmark they need to 'move' some government jobs, but said move costs apparently 100 million?!?! dkk.

posted on 25 Mar 2016, 13:11

41. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 14501; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)

Yeah, because arguing how much the USA wastes on military isn't even worth the time an effort because such an argument would be full of flawed variables.

The facts show the USA military is so big, that if you combine all the other countries in the world's military into one, it would still be smaller than all of the ones here combined for the USA.

As far as how much that cost? The government spends more than 60% of the tax money they collect which solely goes to military spending.
In fact, while the last Bush was in office, he tried to increase the military budget which they were even asking for and they didnt even accept.

And more facts prove, the USA will waste Trillions on a military option that even after 10 years still doesn't work, but wouldnt even give $99M to save people who were on long term unemployment for jobs they lose do to the Government in the first place.

Example? The original bid for the F16 I think it was, I can specifically remember the plane, but it was suppose to be the next advanced aircraft in the F family. The whole bid was suppose to cost $5Trillion over a length of 10 years which was suppose to include several finished aircraft. Already they have spent over S1.5Trillion and have only 3 working planes and all 3 have serious issues. In fact I believe it was reported that one pilot literally flew one of them apart.

Also another fact. One guy drove his car past a military graveyard and found that roughly 40% of the aircraft was usable or had parts that could have been used on other planes and are simply just sitting them rusting in the hot sun.

Yea no sense in arguing about the waste an abuse of funds of the only arm of the US Governement that isn't audited by the IRS.

yeah, lots of true to the $50,000 hammer jokes. It actually does happen and more than many are willing to even admit too. Oh and I know this as fact and I've never ben in the military.

Here is my proof -http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/02/18/DOD-Stuck-Flawed-15-Trillion-Fighter-Jet
Oh it was the F-35 to be specific. I knew it was the F-Familiy of jets. READ AND SEE THE FACTS.

Oh and it was suppose to cost $400B for 2400 plane and they have basically not one working one....well one that works correctly. WASTE.

At what point do you say, we spent enough lets stop wasting money. But yet its more like, well we've already waste $1.5trillion, lets keep going; eventually we will get it right.

posted on 25 Mar 2016, 13:28

42. xondk (Posts: 1904; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)

Very nicely put, and that is my point, and for that matter US isn't alone, it is just right now the biggest in this matter, a ton of countries that do it, and it then just boggles my mind when you hear stories like this where suing and threatening legal action to get an iphone unlocked...mind boggling.
But again it wasn't meant to 'argue' it more as going "come on, get your stuff together guys." towards the FBI.

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 20:50

32. ilani (Posts: 90; Member since: 23 Dec 2011)

Nicely put!

posted on 25 Mar 2016, 08:31

38. natypes (Posts: 1106; Member since: 02 Feb 2015)

$50k a year is quite a bit short there bud. Trust me ;)

I'm not saying private tech companies do not pay more, they certainly do, but the gap isn't that grotesque.

posted on 25 Mar 2016, 12:58

40. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 14501; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)

Having the best people "you can have" doesn't mean those peopel can do this task.

You're trying to put things together that don't go together.

Just because you can have one of the worlds best hackers, doesn't mean they can hack everything.

McAfee said he would do it for free, so the FBI must think they will get better results for $15K vs free. lol.

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 17:11

7. Adreno (banned) (Posts: 755; Member since: 12 Mar 2016)

The goverment indeed has the best hackers, but they can't get into that iPhone without getting their hands dirty. I mean, violating the very same law they're supposed to enforce and obey.

So they find a 3rd party hacker to get them what they want, while keeping their hands clean...

Or am I wrong?

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 17:23

9. izim1 (Posts: 1259; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)

You're wrong. If it's illegal to do, it's illegal to hire someone to do it for you.

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 18:36 2

25. oozz009 (Posts: 520; Member since: 22 Jun 2015)

Who knows? Maybe it's Apple who paid this amount annomisly as part of a behind the scenes deal with the government themselves. That would at least explain why the court for Tuesday was dropped in last minute.

posted on 25 Mar 2016, 04:53 1

37. MrElectrifyer (banned) (Posts: 3960; Member since: 21 Oct 2014)

Wouldn't be the first time an organization has disguised it's name to do something off the radar...take for example ISIS, that stood for Israel Secret Intelligence Service (a.k.a. Mossad):


Speaking of which, could this be of some means to legitimize sending money to Israel for whatever bigger reason?

posted on 27 Mar 2016, 01:50

45. egyptian3030 (Posts: 29; Member since: 21 Nov 2015)

Be happy FBI, an Israeli Company will help you to hack others phones\security as they are doing daily in Palestine.

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