Inside the little-known Japanese firm helping the FBI crack Apple iPhones

“The little-known Japanese company at the center of a legal tussle between Apple Inc. and the U.S. government over the hacking of an iPhone built its business on pinball game machines and stumbled into the mobile phone security business almost by accident,” Monami Yui and Aleksandra Gjorgievska report for Bloomberg.

“Cellebrite Mobile Synchronization Ltd. worked with the FBI to crack an iPhone connected in a terrorist attack, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the matter is private,” Yui and Gjorgievska report. “Neither Cellebrite nor the FBI have confirmed the link, and a spokesman from parent Sun Corp. on Thursday said the company isn’t able to comment on specific criminal cases.”

“Sun, based in a small town of 100,000 southwest of Tokyo, has been building pinball-like game machines found in Japan’s pachinko parlors since the 1970s but has often displayed bigger tech ambitions. The Konan, Aichi-based company developed personal computers in the late 1970s, computer games and more recently, iPhone mahjong apps. In 2007, as sales slumped, Sun acquired Petah Tikva, Israel-based Cellebrite,” Yui and Gjorgievska report. “Today, the bulk of Sun’s mobile data solutions business comes from Cellebrite, said Sugaya.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: There is no evidence that the FBI’s undisclosed, super-top-secret solution (Cellebrite’s NAND-mirroring) works on modern iPhones with Secure Enclaves (iPhone 5s and later).

Apple could cement their win for liberty by simply hiring Cellebrite to test the method on newer iPhones running iOS 9.3, then stating publicly that all newer iPhones which contain the Secure Enclave have always been immune to hacking via the method the FBI paid Cellebrite to employ (NAND-mirroring) on the terrorist’s San Bernadino County-issued iPhone 5C.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin

Here’s how much the FBI is paying Cellebrite for its iPhone hack – March 25, 2016
Meet Cellebrite, the Israeli company reportedly cracking iPhones for the FBI – March 24, 2016
U.S. Senator Wyden pledges to fight limits on encryption – March 31, 2016
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

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Dan K.” and “Dave B.” for the heads up.]


  1. “…according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified…”

    Of course. The tried and true anonymously vague ‘people’. Out there. Somewhere.

    They might as well have used the line, ‘we can tell you, but then we’d have to kill you.’

    There is no spoon.

  2. The last couple generations of iPhones with iOS 9 are inherently more resistant to the claim hack for anyone who wants to put in just a little effort to make them more difficult to hack.

    Apple has set it up so that you can use a very long, complex code. People have used as many as 20 characters. You can also use numbers, letters (both upper and lower case), and non alphanumeric, e.g., @, #, >, !, or &, among many others. The only thing Apple could add at this point is allowing emoji characters.

    If you set up your iPhone with a minimum of 8 characters and use an obscure combination of all the above then a brute force attack like the one currently being employed will take over 200,000 years even if they’re lucky and guess it 5% way through the entire possible set. AND if they employ 1,000 computers to do it, it will still take over 200 years.

    Anyone who really wants their data to be as safe as possible is not using the default 6 characters and using all numbers, e.g., the last 6 digits of your spouse’s phone number or the 6 digits representing your spouse’s birthday.

    1. I have one i got in 1968, it jammed too until i meticulously cleaned all the channels and balls, lubricated any pivot points, and i now have a dust cover on the trays the in and out balls hang out in, so the channels do not get contaminated again. It has worked flawlessly for decades now

  3. I suppose having Apple hire them for ‘white hat’ work is a nice suggestion.. Doing it periodically would also be key since no one expects ‘cracking’ tech to stand still.

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