(Cyberwar.news) FBI Director James Comey said in a speech last week that a tool provided to his agency by a third party to hack into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists only works on the specific model used by the shooter, the iPhone 5c running iOS 9.
“This worked to open this one 5c iOS 9 phone, but it’s a bit of a technological corner case,” Comey said in an address at Kenyon College in Ohio. “The world has moved on. This doesn’t work in 6 or 5s. So we have a tool that works on a narrow slice of iPhones.”
The FBI director added that his agency is currently debating whether or not it will inform Apple, the phone’s maker, of the flaw that allowed the third-party tool to work and to gain access to that particular iPhone model and operating system.
“If we tell Apple, they are going to fix it and we are back where we started from,” Comey said.
The week before the FBI, via the Justice Department, dropped a legal battle with Apple over the agency’s attempt to force the tech giant to develop a tool that would allow cyber forensic investigators to gain access to the terrorist’s phone. An Israeli newspaper reported earlier that Israel-based mobile forensics firm Cellebrite was working with the FBI to unlock the phone.
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Later reports said the FBI was offering the tool to other federal and law enforcement agencies.
“As has been our longstanding policy, the FBI will of course consider any tool that might be helpful to our partners,” said a letter the FBI sent to those other agencies.
“We know that the absence of lawful, critical investigative tools due to the ‘Going Dark’ problem is a substantial state and local law enforcement challenge that you face daily,” the letter said, according to a copy obtained by Buzzfeed.
However, given the narrow scope of the tool used by the FBI to unlock the San Bernardino phone, it is unclear as to how useful it may be to other agencies.
Earlier in the controversial court case between the FBI and Apple, former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden hinted the FBI was lying about not being able to unlock the phone.
“The FBI says Apple has the ‘exclusive technical means’ to unlock the phone. Respectfully, that’s bulls**t,” he said via video link from Moscow to the Common Cause Blueprint for a Great Democracy conference.
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