Apple Encryption: Israel’s Cellebrite Helped FBI Crack iPhone, Bloomberg Reported

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
March 30, 2016Updated: October 5, 2018

The FBI collaborated with Israeli data extraction company Cellebrite to access the iPhone of the San Bernardino killers, according to a Bloomberg report quoting “people familiar with the matter.”

Cellebrite’s connection with the case has also been reported by Israeli news portal Ynetnews in a March 23 article quoting “experts in the field familiar with the case.”

In both cases the company didn’t offer a comment.

The Justice Department said it no longer needs a court order to force Apple to remove safeguards against cracking the phone in question.

Cellebrite has been providing the FBI with decryption technology since 2013 and has been working with law enforcement, military, intelligence, security, and government authorities in over 90 countries, according to Ynetnews.

In February, the FBI obtained a court order directing Apple to create software that would allow authorities to access the password-protected phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the killers of the Dec. 2 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

But Apple refused, saying such software would compromise security for all users, since the company would not be able to guarantee the software wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands.

After finding its own way to access files on the San Bernardino iPhone, the Justice Department said it no longer needs a court order to force Apple to remove safeguards against cracking the phone in question.

In a statement this week, the Justice Department said, “It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety.”

Apple responded by saying it will assist law enforcement in at least some ways as it has in the past. But the company added, “we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.