We now know the answer to a long-running mystery that involves the Apple iPhone. In December 2015, in what was later called a terrorist attack, married couple Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik shot to death 14 people in a San Bernardino office building. Apple
got involved when a court ruled that the tech giant had to unlock Farook's iPhone 5c.
Name of company that unlocked terrorist's iPhone 5c in 2016 is finally revealed
Apple CEO Tim Cook refused to follow the court order because doing so would require Apple to create a special version of iOS for the government
to use. The executive feared that this special software-dubbed Govt.OS-could leak once in the hands of institutions like the FBI resulting in the loss of privacy for every iPhone user. Eventually, the FBI paid a data extraction company to unlock Farook's phone although the identity of that company was only guessed at until now.
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The phone used by the terrorist was an iPhone 5c
Before we get to that name, let's step back and look at the issue. The FBI felt that inside the alleged murderer's phone it might find evidence pertaining to the San Bernardino attack along with a list of places Farook might have been scoping out for future attacks. Those who agreed with Apple's decision not to abide by the court's ruling worried that the government was setting a precedent for unlocking handsets while others felt that Apple was supporting terrorism.
This was such a huge story in the beginning of 2016 that presidential candidates felt compelled to weigh in on Apple's decision not to follow a court order. Donald Trump, who was then the GOP front runner, said "The reality is time is of the essence when you’re talking about the possibility of a terrorist attack." Marco Rubio stated that, "Ultimately, I think being a good corporate citizen is important," and said that the standoff between Apple and the government was a good example why talks between the tech industry and lawmakers need to take place.
The FBI finally paid a company to open the device and there were plenty of rumors about which company was used to do the deed. The first rumor said that Israeli company Cellebrite was paid a little more than $15,000 to do the job. Later on, then FBI head James Comey said that the actual price to unlock the handset came to $1.4 million. It was later reported that no useful information was unearthed by the FBI.
According to the Washington Post
, Cellebrite had nothing to do with the unlocking of Farook's iPhone 5c. Instead, a little-known firm named Azimuth was the company that cracked the device. Azimuth is now owned by L3Harris Technologies and was reportedly paid $900,000 to do the job for the federal government.
Apple discovered the truth in the process of suing a company called Corellium that creates virtual online iPhones which can be used to research hacks for iOS. The court dismissed the case filed by Apple.
While Apple was lambasted in the media for taking what was considered to be a stance in favor of the terrorist, Tim Cook told employees in a memo that "As individuals and as a company, we have no tolerance or sympathy for terrorists. When they commit unspeakable acts like the tragic attacks in San Bernardino, we work to help the authorities pursue justice for the victims. And that's exactly what we did. Starting with iOS 8, we began encrypting data in a way that not even the iPhone itself can read without the user's passcode, so if it is lost or stolen, our personal data, conversations, financial and health information are far more secure."
So we now have the answer to a long unsolved mystery that had been festering for more than five years.