FBI Director: Tool Used to Hack iPhone 5c Came From a Party

Ever since the news broke that the FBI has managed to crack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c’s encryption, questions have arisen about whether the tool used is able to crack the security of other iPhones as well. Speaking with CNN, FBI director James Comey dismissed such claims.

IPhone 5c yellow

You may already be aware of the legal and media battle between Apple and the FBI and how it ended: The DoJ ultimately dropped the case against the iPhone maker after successfully accessing the data stored on Farook’s iPhone 5c; therefore, it didn’t need further assistance from Apple. Previously, the FBI had used the All Writs Act in an attempt to force Apple to develop software (GovtOS), which would have made it easier for the FBI crack the handset’s security.

“Litigation between the government and Apple over the San Bernardino phone has ended, because the government has purchased, from a private party, a way to get into that phone, 5C, running iOS 9,” Comey said.

In an interview with CNN, Comey said the FBI purchased a tool from a private party (multiple reports point to Cellebrite as the FBI’s helping hand), which allowed them to access the data. However, this doesn’t seem to work on iPhones with secure enclave – iPhone 5s or later.

The FBI director also said the purchased tool worked only on a “narrow slice of phones” that does not include the newest Apple models, or the 5S.

Now the questions are (1) is the FBI bluffing? and (2) will it disclose the method used to Apple. Comey is afraid that if they disclose it to Apple, the next software update would patch the flaw. So, as he said, “we just haven’t decided yet.”