In order to access the San Bernardino terrorist’s locked iPhone, the FBI reportedly called on the help of professional hackers.
People familiar with the matter claim that the researchers hired by the federal agency discovered a previously unknown software flaw that allowed them to create a piece of hardware to crack the iPhone’s four-digit passcode, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday (April 12).
Sources explained that the researchers who helped the FBI specialize in exposing security vulnerabilities in software and were paid a one-time flat fee for their services.
However, the solution purchased by the FBI may not be helpful for a wide range of cases due to the fact that it is designed to only work on iPhone 5cs running the iOS 9 operating system — what FBI Director James B. Comey recently called a “narrow slice” of devices.
Unlike what was suggested by earlier reports, those close to the situation told The Washington Post that the bureau did not use the services of mobile forensic software provider Cellebrite.
Despite the FBI finally unlocking the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist and the Department of Justice withdrawing its legal action against Apple, tensions are still running high between the public and private entities.
Now, the government is faced with the decision of whether to disclose the vulnerability it used to access the device to Apple.
While numerous security and privacy experts are suggesting that the agency should share the information with Apple so that it can issue a security patch, the FBI has yet to make a definitive decision one way or the other.
According to Comey, if the agency were to, in fact, disclose the flaws with Apple, “they’re going to fix it, and then, we’re back where we started from,” he stated last week.