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Firm Helped FBI to Breach iPhone; Gets Hacked & Tools Leaked


In March of 2016, the long-running conflict between the FBI and Apple left the two organizations in a legal dispute. FBI demanded Apple to break into an iPhone of an individual suspected for the shootings in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead. Apple denied, stating that it would require the company to write new software to create a master key.

Eventually, the unsolved case led to a trial which was later dropped by the FBI after the law enforcement agency announced that an Israeli firm called Cellebrite was able to break into the iPhone in question. Apple never confirmed the breach nor offered any additional information if the iPhone of the suspect was actually broken into. At the time, both FBI and Cellebrite declined to reveal the methods used to breach the mobile phone.

“From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred,” said Apple in a statement.


Earlier this month, Motherboard released an exclusive article based on a source who claim to have hacked 900 GB of data stored within the local servers and databases of Cellebrite. Amongst many batches of data, the source or the hacker found explicit details of how the firm got access to the iPhone of the San Bernardino shootings suspect.

“The debate around backdoors is not going to go away, rather, its is almost certainly going to get more intense as we lurch toward a more authoritarian society. “It’s important to demonstrate that when you create these tools, they will make it out. History should make that clear,” the source told Motherboard.

The hacker also revealed connections between the Israeli firm and other government agencies such as the US state police and highway patrol that have spent millions of dollars in obtaining the technology of Cellebrite. The hacker concluded a long-running relationship between Cellebrite and the US government, as well as other countries including UAE, Turkey and Russia.

Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensic scientist, confirmed to Motherboard that the tools found in the local servers of Cellebrite demonstrated a similar structure to that of tools and technologies utilized by the jailbreaking community, a community which focuses on hacking iPhones and Apple operating systems to provide users a way to utilize previously unavailable applications.

In all, the hacker didn’t seem to have an intent on exposing the tools utilized by Cellebrite in breaking into the iPhone of the San Bernardino shootings suspect. Instead, it seemed as if the hacker wanted to make a point that backdoor tools will eventually be exposed and released to public, reaffirming the stance of Apple on backdoor tools and shallow encryption methods.

Image Via: Open Source Creative Commons

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