Apple could use Brooklyn case to pursue details about FBI’s San Bernardino iPhone hack

“If the U.S. Department of Justice asks a New York court to force Apple Inc to unlock an iPhone, the technology company could push the government to reveal how it accessed the phone which belonged to a shooter in San Bernardino, a source familiar with the situation said,” Dan Levine reports for Reuters.

“The Justice Department will disclose over the next two weeks whether it will continue with its bid to compel Apple to help access an iPhone in a Brooklyn drug case, according to a court filing on Tuesday,” Levine reports. “Prosecutors have not said whether the San Bernardino technique would work for other seized iPhones, including the one at issue in Brooklyn. Should the Brooklyn case continue, Apple could pursue legal discovery that would potentially force the FBI to reveal what technique it used on the San Bernardino phone, the source said.”

Levine reports, “In a statement, Apple said ‘we don’t know’ the FBI’s technical solution, which vendor developed it or ‘what it allegedly achieves.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: In order to restore trust in iPhone security, Apple will have to find out the undisclosed method (NAND-mirroring) from the undisclosed third party vendor (Cellebrite) and either defeat it or explain why it won’t work on iPhones newer than the Islamic terrorist’s San Bernardino County-issued iPhone 5C (which lacks the Secure Enclave).

Apple’s new challenge: Learning how the U.S. cracked terrorist’s iPhone – March 29, 2016
Did the FBI just unleash a hacker army on Apple? – March 29, 2016
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. This is a fascinating development. By tackling the issue of Farook’s iPhone in the way that they did, the FBI managed to screw up on more levels than any of us ever thought possible, but have also screwed up the future too.

    If I’m reading this correctly, Apple can tell the Brooklyn authorities to go and use the same technique used on Farook’s iPhone. It’s entirely possible that it won’t work with a newer iPhone, but the FBI previously assured the courts that there was absolutely no option other than to force Apple to create GovOS. Events subsequently demonstrated that the FBI were wrong.

    If the FBI claim that the Cellebrite technique won’t work, they will have to prove that it can’t possibly work and they have already established that their testament is unreliable.


  2. I also meant to add that if the Cellebrite technique doesn’t work on newer iPhones, Apple won’t need to patch any vulnerability because they will have already done so.

    It might actually be quite beneficial for Apple if the public were told that older iPhones can be cracked, but not current ones can’t.

    1. For those of us familiar with the “workings” of the Federal Gubbermint this is simply status quo as a normal course of performance.
      The fire, ready, aim mantra is alive and well…..!!!!

  3. I think the DOJ will drop the suit before it shares those details with Apple, which it will have to do if the suit proceeds. One element of their cause of action under the All Writs Act is to show that extraordinary relief is necessary because the court’s jurisdiction over searches and seizures can be protected in no other way.

  4. James Comey tried to coerce Apple into doing something that the FBI couldn’t, or wouldn’t do.

    Tim Cook told Obama’s staff to ‘get bent’ at the last ‘tech/beer summit’ that Cook went to. Comey subsequently pissed himself, found a sympathetic judge, threw up a lawsuit, and then had to backpedal out of an unpopular, and possibly illegal, situation.

    So now that Congress is about to get involved, we’re getting reports of, ‘Nevermind that previous request, we got into the iPhone. Don’t you worry about how. You just need to know that we did it. Let’s just pretend that lawsuit never happened.’ We’re all supposed to now just ‘move along’ and ignore the fact that this whole situation smacks of an abuse of power and intimidation by the DoJ?

    Not buying it.

  5. If I were a defendant (or a defendant’s lawyer — thankfully I’m neither) in any of these cases I’d demand to know the technique and process used to extract the data from the phone. If the prosecution refused then I’d have grounds for a lack of proof that the claimed evidence came from that phone. If the court supported the prosecution in non disclosure then I’d file an appeal.

    The real bottom line with the government refusing to disclose the technique and full process is the claimed accuracy of the evidence. Without concrete proof that the evidence came from the specific phone in question there is absolutely no proof that the evidence was factual AT ALL. Validity of the source and “chain of custody” of the evidence is critical in almost all cases involving important evidence.

    Without the defense being able to validate the source and chain of custody the entire process is broken.

    1. I suspect that the main motivation in the Brooklyn case and obviously the Farook case is gathering information rather than to gather evidence that can be used in court. Not all information unearthed by investigators is admissible in court, but it can still assist with investigations. In the case of the drug guy, revealing his contacts and messages would be likely to create new leads to be investigated, or point to somebody who was previously thought not to be involved.

      As SS pointed out, any court case would need to rely on evidence gathered by conventional means.

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