Did the FBI just unleash a hacker army on Apple?

“In the end, the FBI didn’t need Apple’s help to extract information from a dead terrorist’s iPhone,” Shane Harris reports for The Daily Beast. “Hackers, the FBI says, did the government’s work for it.”

“Tech companies and researchers around the world beat a path to the bureau’s door. Let us find a way into that phone that Apple won’t help you crack, they said,” Harris reports. “You won’t find that version of events spelled out quite so bluntly in any court documents. But it’s essentially what FBI Director James Comey told reporters last week in Washington. ‘The attention that’s been drawn to this issue, by the litigation and by the controversy that’s surrounded it, has stimulated a marketplace of creative people all around the world to try and come up with ideas,’ Comey said. ‘Lots of folks have come to us with potential ideas.'”

“Cellebrite, an Israeli company, has been identified in some news accounts as the company that came to the FBI’s rescue. It signed a contract with the bureau worth more than $15 million last week,” Harris reports. “In other words: The American government may have used foreign hackers to crack the signature product of America’s top technology company.”

“But it’s hard to imagine Apple didn’t have some idea what was coming. One of Cellebrite’s other clients is Apple itself. The company uses Cellebrite in some of its stores to help customers transfer data between phones,” Harris reports. “There’s a big market out there for hackers who can break the toughest technology. And the FBI has posted a help wanted ad.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Every avenue exposed is an avenue that Apple can close to make iOS even more secure.

If the feds fail to disclose, as we wrote last week:

Apple should simply buy Cellebrite and other entities like it and task these newly acquired engineers with hardening iPhone to ridiculously hack-proof levels.

Apple declares victory in battle with FBI, but the war continues – March 29, 2016
Apple vows to increase security as FBI claims to break into terrorist’s iPhone – March 29, 2016
U.S. government drops Apple case after claiming hack of terrorist’s iPhone – March 29, 2016
Meet Cellebrite, the Israeli company reportedly cracking iPhones for the FBI – March 24, 2016


  1. Not sure anyone believes the FBI saying it’s been done?

    The federal government, starting with theFBI is playing a chess game really – their goal is to force companies to give them backdoors to their software. The waited for a case to use Apple for the PR value Apple brings to any news story. They’re plotting the next case to sue Apple already. As Bloomberg reported back in February – Secret Memo Details U.S.’s Broader Strategy to Crack Phones http://bloom.bg/1UkhaVZ

    FBI & DOJ suing Android wouldn’t bring the PR value. And Android is easier to hack – but lets be honest – Google has been in bed with the federal government for many years – Android might have the backdoor in it already.

    1. I gotta ask the readers out there, a few weeks back I came across an article stating Eric Schmidt being hired by the NSA to be on a “Board of Innovation”? I saw the article when it came out but a recent search on Bing, all I could find were articles that spoke of a strained relations between eric T. mole and NSA, which is a good angle to divert the attention of commonalities between the two.

  2. The NSA directed the FBI to use Cellebrite since the NSA already works with them. FBI wants to devalue Apple’s argument that it can’t be done . They want to be able to go to a judge next time and say, “here, these guys did it. Make Apple do it for our warrant”…

    1. As I pointed out on an earlier thread today, the only hook that the Justice Department (DOJ) has to force Apple to do anything is the All Writs Act. There are about 200 years worth of judicial precedents that the AWA cannot be used to force someone to do something if the same result (in this case, preserving the District Court’s jurisdiction to access evidence via search warrants) can be obtained in another reasonable way. There are a lot of other issues with the DOJ position, like the First Amendment and CALEA, but they never even get to those hurdles unless they can jump the first one, which they have erected themselves… that the Government can hire a private hacker instead of compelling Apple to crack its own product.

    2. … “here, these guys did it. Make Apple do it for our warrant”…

      Apple wouldn’t need to comply with such a request. They would simply point out that there is a commercial service that does what’s being asked and any requests for assistance should be directed to that company.

      Furthermore, if Apple is not told how the hack was performed then Apple can insist that it doesn’t know how to do it in-house.

  3. There’s a difference between breaking iOS encryption and NAND mirroring —a hardware-based approach that, while effective, is far from the “golden key” software the FBI had sought.

    Basically one compromises iPhones, the other that doesn’t has its physical risks and osn’t fail proof…

  4. What a nice piece of drivel:

    “Did the FBI Just Unleash a Hacker Army on Apple?” Absolutely, a war mongering nation needs as many armies as it can get.

    Then I love this: “And why wouldn’t they? One of the world’s most influential technology companies had squared off against the world’s most powerful law enforcement agency.” Talk about delusions of grandeur. The world’s most powerful law enforcement agency does not allow laws to be broken.

    And finally this comment: “In a statement, Apple insisted, “This case never should have been brought.” It’s hard not to read in Comey’s earlier remarks a counter-reply: “You never should have refused to help us.””

    Apple did what they should have done, refuse to help an agency from a war mongering nation that tortures people. It’s called holding the moral high ground and it always will prevail.

  5. First off, there will always be hackers. This case did not unleash them.

    Secondly, there is no such thing as absolute security, either in the digital world or the physical world. It’s like the locks that protect our homes and our cars; they are good enough for normal people in everyday situations. But if someone really wants to break into our homes or our cars, they can do so. We don’t build our homes like fortresses, or our cars like tanks.

    It’s the same way with computing devices. I don’t expect 100% bulletproof security. I just want it to be secure enough to protect the average person from the average type of threat out there. Which my iPhone is more than sufficient at right now.

    It doesn’t worry me that there is some Israeli company that specializes in digital forensics that can break into an iPhone, because most of us will never have our iPhones subjected to that type of scrutiny.

    At some point we have to go on with our lives and abandon paranoia and this foolish pursuit of the illusion of total security with zero risk. No such thing exists in real life.

  6. “Did the FBI just unleash a hacker army on Apple?”

    No! But thanks to the FBI’s stupid decision to go public with their mud slinging, they did unleash an army of Apple encryption engineers who will make the FBI wish they kept quiet.
    Apple was never against the FBI finding someone else to unlock the phones, but the character bashing against Apple will be remembered for a long time.

    1. EXACTLY. And don’t forget that now the entire computer device community is motivated to improve and add encryption to their devices. The FBI blundered their way into making it HARDER to decrypt device communication and data storage. If they hadn’t blatantly made UNconstitutional demands of Apple and their customer base, they’d have managed to keep some modicum of trust from the computer community. Now that is dead and gone. The FBI under Director Comey proved themselves to be disingenuous about the entire case, potentially knocking out one of their own eyes, to invent a fun analogy.

      Just resign Director Comey. What an incredible failure on your part.

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