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FBI allowed to keep secret details on iPhone hacking tool used by it in San Bernardino case

US Court ruled FBI will not be forced to reveal details of a hacking tools used to break into a terrorist’s iPhone. This case sparked months of legal tension between Apple and the US government, before federal agents eventually bought a hacking tool to break into terrorist farook’s iphone, who killed 14 people in San Bernardino.

 

As Apple refused to help the FBI develop a backdoor into it for the purpose of obtaining sensitive information on Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, The FBI had taken Apple to court to compel the phone maker to break the encryption on his iPhone before ultimately abandoning the case in 2016 after gaining access to the phone with the “assistance of a third party”.

Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, participated in the terrorist attack that left 14 dead at a Californian disability centre before being shot dead in San Bernardino, California in December 2015.

Recenty, The Associated Press, Vice Media and USA Today had filed a lawsuit in the US seeking information on which company unlocked San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone 5C for the FBI and how much the agency paid.

In a judgement released at the weekend, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan sided with the FBI’s national security arguments he denied the request for the price paid by the US government for the tool, despite former FBI director James Comey and Senator Dianne Feinstein’s public disclosures in may  that the cost was around $1 million.

The FBI in court case argued that “if the vendor’s identity were made public, a review of the company’s work could lead antagonists to develop exploits for the vendor’s unique product”.It also warned that the vendor’s cyber security was not as advanced as the FBI’s and worried that releasing the vendor’s name “could subject the vendor to attacks by entities who wish to exploit the technology”.

Justice Chutkan said the cost of the service “could logically reveal how much the FBI values gaining access to suspects’ phones, and the breath of the tool’s capabilities”.

According to FBI director James Comey the tool that the FBI used to break into the San Bernardino terrorist’s encrypted iPhone works on a “narrow slice of phones. The process, or tool, or whatever it is, doesn’t work on an iPhone 5s or later. It was narrowly tailored to only work on an iPhone 5C operating on iOS 9.

 

Jahnavi M
Vulnerability analyst, Technical Writer, Security Blogger, Co-founder---SecKurity

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