Israel’s Cellebrite Assisting FBI in iPhone Encryption Break

by Matt Klassen on March 24, 2016

cellebriteEarlier this week an impending hearing in the FBI vs. Apple encryption saga was postponed over the news that the Bureau had enlisted the help of an erstwhile unknown third-party. We now know who that third-party is, Israeli company Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software.

According to a Wednesday report in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Cellebrite is the company offering the FBI a way to crack the iPhone encryption without needing Apple’s assistance, and although it hasn’t yet been made known that whatever Cellebrite has suggested, it will likely take several weeks to enact, meaning most likely that the new way forward is some revised method of the common brute force approach (that is, guessing the code until the right one is found).

Cellebrite offers a forensics system used globally by law enforcement, military, and intelligence services to retrieve data hidden inside secured mobile devices, making me wonder why the FBI didn’t consider such available tools before it had the Department of Justice argue convincingly that it had exhausted all available means to access the data on the iPhone in question.

Let me say that as a developing story, there are few new details that have emerged regarding the nature of the hack proposed or how it will bypass Apple’s encryption standards, only that it is Israeli company Cellebrite, and not McAfee or some other security firm, who has come forward to help.

As I mentioned earlier this week, while the news could bring this particular legal row between the FBI and Apple to an abrupt close, by no means should we assume it will bring the encryption debate to any satisfying conclusion, as all this will accomplish is providing Apple with the impetus to close the security loopholes, which will in turn reignite the debate the next time a really important iPhone in a really important case needs to be accessed.

But of course this has me questioning the FBI’s motivation behind this to begin with, as increasingly its efforts seem more towards using a terrorist situation to set the precedent regarding encryption that it has been looking to establish for several years already, only stopping to explore other options when it can no longer persuasively deny that they exist.

Cellebrite has declined to comment on the story.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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