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Israeli Firm Cellebrite To Help FBI Crack Encrypted iPhone – Report

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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The “third party” to help FBI crack the San Bernardino iPhone is reportedly Israeli forensic specialist Cellebrite

The FBI’s attempt to unlock the iPhone belonging one of the San Bernardino terrorists, Syed Rizwan Farook, has taken a fresh twist.

Apple has refused point blank to co-operate with a court order over the matter, but US prosecutors said this week that the FBI would bring in a “third party” to help unlock the encrypted iPhone.

Mobile Forensics

And now YNetNews has reported that the so-far unnamed “third party” is Cellebrite, a mobile forensics company based in Israel.

“The FBI has been reportedly using the services of the Israeli-based company Cellebrite in its effort to break the protection on a terrorist’s locked iPhone,” said the news website, citing experts in the field familiar with the case.

And Cellebrite certainly has the right credentials. Earlier this year it was reported that Dutch police had used technology developed by the firm to decrypt messages on BlackBerry PGP handsets.

iphone6-plus-box-silver-2014_GEO_EMEA_LANG_ENIf Cellebrite succeeds with the terrorist’s iPhone, then the FBI will no longer need the help of Apple, the Israeli daily said, citing unnamed industry sources.

Cellebrite officials have reportedly declined to comment on the matter.

It should be remembered that the FBI has already been offered the help of maverick security expert John McAfee.

The former anti-virus software creator offered last month to break the encryption on the Farook’s iPhone for the FBI, free of charge. He said he wanted break the iPhone in question so that Apple will not have to create a backdoor itself. He reckoned it would take his security team about three weeks to crack the iPhone.

Court Battle

Until this week, the FBI had insisted that the only way to get into the iPhone was to force Apple to write software that could unlock the device.

But on Monday, a Riverside, California federal judge agreed to a request from the government to postpone Tuesday’s hearing, reportedly allowing the FBI to reportedly attempt to unlock the phone using the “third party” method.

“On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone,” the US government filing said.

“Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. (“Apple”) set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case.”

Apple has been vehemently opposed to the FBI’s case, last month asked the US court to reverse its order for the tech firm to help the FBI hack into the iPhone.

Apple CEO Tim Cook robustly defended his company’s stance on encryption and thanked the general public for their support during the recent launch of the iPhone SE and iPad Pro 9.7.

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