Reports this week claim that Israeli firm Cellebrite helped the FBI by providing the technology to extract information from the iPhone linked to San Bernadino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook.
According to a report from Bloomberg lat week, people familiar with the FBI’s operation said the agency worked with Cellebrite Mobile Synchronization Ltd, part of Japan’s Sun Corporation, to get access to the iPhone. On Friday, CNN Money also mentioned sources and stated that a brilliant hacker in Seattle managed a group of Cellebrite engineers to achieve the exploit.
The reports back up claims from last week by Israeli publication Yedioth Ahronoth. However the precise method used by the FBI is still a secret, with neither Cellebrite of the Justice Department confirming the rumours.
Adding to the confusion are statements from unnamed law enforcement officials who told CNN on Friday that Cellebrite was not involved. But circumstantial evidence does point to the firm being able to crack Apple’s security on the phone.
Government records show that Cellebrite signed an FBI contract worth $218,000 the same day the Justice Department said the device had been cracked. A long time customer of Cellebrite, the FBI had previously signed at least 187 deals over the past seven years for forensics tools costing on average $10,883 each, but the agreement from last week was the largest one to date, CNN claims.
Shares in Sun Corp have since jumped more than 40 percent to hit a peak this year of 1,245 yen as of last week.
Apple’s attempts to get information about the FBI’s data extraction method have been fruitless so far. It’s also not clear if Apple can force the method to be revealed in court, but security experts say that leaving the vulnerability unpatched is putting hundreds of millions of iPhones at risk.