“The FBI cracked a San Bernardino terrorist’s phone with the help of professional hackers who discovered and brought to the bureau at least one previously unknown software flaw, according to people familiar with the matter,” Ellen Nakashima reports for The Washington Post. “The new information was then used to create a piece of hardware that helped the FBI to crack the iPhone’s four-digit personal identification number without triggering a security feature that would have erased all the data, the individuals said.”

“The researchers, who typically keep a low profile, specialize in hunting for vulnerabilities in software and then in some cases selling them to the U.S. government. They were paid a one-time flat fee for the solution,” Nakashima reports. “The bureau in this case did not need the services of the Israeli firm Cellebrite, as some earlier reports had suggested, people familiar with the matter said.”

“The people who helped the U.S. government come from the sometimes shadowy world of hackers and security researchers who profit from finding flaws in companies’ software or systems,” Nakashima reports. “Some hackers, known as ‘white hats,’ disclose the vulnerabilities to the firms responsible for the software or to the public so they can be fixed and are generally regarded as ethical. Others, called ‘black hats,’ use the information to hack networks and steal people’s personal information. At least one of the people who helped the FBI in the San Bernardino case falls into a third category [‘gray hats’], often considered ethically murky: researchers who sell flaws — for instance, to governments or to companies that make surveillance tools.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Even without utilizing Cellebrite, with the FBI director confirming that the hack only works on older iPhones, it’s quite obvious that Apple’s Secure Enclave is the difference maker.

Apple devices with the Secure Enclave include any device with the Apple A7 chip or later:

• iPhone 5S
• iPhone 6
• iPhone 6 Plus
• iPhone 6s
• iPhone 6s Plus
• iPhone SE

• iPod touch (6th generation)

• iPad Air
• iPad Air 2
• iPad mini 2
• iPad mini 3
• iPad mini 4
• 9.7-inch iPad Pro
• 12.9-inch iPad Pro