The FBI’s mysterious encryption-cracking, third-party helper has been identified as Israel-based mobile forensics company Cellebrite, newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday.
Though the report cited “experts in the field familiar with the case,” officials at Cellebrite have declined to confirm the claim. Apple has previously said it has no information related to the Justice Department’s efforts to crack the phone.
But even without confirmation, the pick makes sense.
According to the FBI’s contract with Cellebrite, the UFED System is a handheld cellular exploitation device capable of extracting the “phonebook, pictures, videos, SMS messages, call histories, ESN/IMEI information, and deleted SMS/call histories off the SIM for rapid analysis.” The FBI said the system supports “all major technologies,” including the Apple iPhone, Blackberry, Google Android and Microsoft Mobile operating systems.
It seems, however, that the exact technique for penetrating the iPhone at the heart of the Apple/FBI case will remain a secret – at least for now.
The Guardian reported Tuesday the FBI has classified its hacking technique in an effort to keep criminals and security officials in the dark but also to prevent Apple from fixing the flaw and making entry even harder.
While everyone is now interested in finding out the FBI’s methods, earlier this week the fact that there could even be a way in to the phone without Apple’s help was news in itself.
On Monday evening, the FBI made waves when it asked Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym to delay a scheduled hearing in its case against Apple, saying it needed time to test a cracking method provided by an unnamed outside party. The request notably contradicted on the FBI’s previous claims that Apple had the “exclusive technical means” to open the device.
Pym granted the agency’s request and told the FBI to report back by April 5.
The battle between the FBI and Apple previously centered on whether the agency could force Apple to provide access to encrypted data on an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.
Apple resisted a Pym’s initial order to help the FBI access the device, saying the creation of a backdoor into its devices was too dangerous to contemplate. The FBI argued the tool it was seeking from Apple would only be used once on the particular device in question, but Apple said there was no way to guarantee such control over the key once it was created.