FBI Bought Tool To Hack San Bernardino Attacker's iPhone. Plans Brooklyn Court Action To Force Apple To Unlock iPhone
A previous blog post discussed the assistance the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has received from an undisclosed company after abandoning its lawsuit against Apple, Inc. regarding the San Bernardino attackers. There have been two important developments this week.
First, CNN reported on Thursday about the hacking method:
"FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that the government had purchased "a tool" from a private party in order to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters... FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that the government had purchased "a tool" from a private party in order to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters."
FBI Director James Comey did not disclose the name of the tool nor the company's name. The CNN news story also discussed whether or not the government will inform Apple about the hacking method:
"Comey said the government was currently considering whether to tell Apple how it pulled off the hack. "We tell Apple, then they're going to fix it, then we're back where we started from," he said. "We may end up there, we just haven't decided yet."
Second, NBC News reported today that the government plans legal action in Brooklyn to force Apple to unlock an iPhone:
"The Justice Department notified a federal judge Friday that it intends to pursue a lawsuit in Brooklyn against Apple, seeking to force the company to open the iPhone of a convicted New York drug dealer. In February, the judge denied the FBI's request to force Apple to open the New York phone, but the Justice Department appealed that ruling... The method a third party provided to open the San Bernardino phone won't work on the Brooklyn phone, federal officials said. "
So the legal fight will continue to force a tech company to build "back door" software into its product. Three things seem clear: a) the FBI wants an updated legal precedent (rather than a 227-year-old law) to force any tech company to build "back door" software into its products and services; b) the FBI believes that it has a stronger case in Brooklyn. Having hacked an iPhone in California, it can argue with more credibility in court why it needs Apple's help in Brooklyn; and c) if successful in court in Brooklyn, the FBI gets investigative tools for free rather than having to pay.
Obviously, news about this story will continue to break. There is so much unknown and undisclosed.