After months of media and legal battle with Apple, the investigative office had managed to unlock the main suspect’s iPhone in the San Bernardino attack, without revealing either the method or the identity of the third party to the origin of the technical prowess. Attacked by several associations, the FBI has just been reinforced by the justice.
The FBI will not be obliged to reveal the technique used by a third party – paid – to unlock the iPhone 5C of the terrorist of San Bernardino, nor to raise the veil on this mysterious white knight. This was decided by a federal court this weekend.
Between 2015 and 2016, this case made the headlines of the press: Apple refuses to help the FBI to unlock the iPhone 5C of a suspect, was it accused of an attack on the American soil. The firm was justified by brandishing the security of its terminals and the privacy of its users. The creation of such a backdoor could cause much damage, placed in the wrong hands and nothing guaranteed its protection within the investigation office.
Mystery around this unexpected unlock
Despite the intervention of Barack Obama to call for compromise and the pressure exerted on Apple by the intelligence community, the firm does not sag. While the situation threatens to become explosive, the FBI ensures to have unlocked the famous iPhone thanks to the intervention of a ” third party “, and thus suspends the procedure launched against Apple.
Obviously, the FBI is reluctant to give any information whatsoever regarding the identity of this famous white knight or the method used by him. He just published a largely redacted report. Apple, for its part, has no intention of pursuing the FBI considering the method soon obsolete.
The FBI prosecuted, but reinforced
But it was without counting on the intervention of the Associated Press, USA Today and Vice News, determined to be entitled to the chapter. The three organizations prosecuted the FBI in court on the basis of the Freedom Information Act, which considered this information of public utility.
“It is crucial for the public to know how much the FBI has decided to spend on this tool, as well as to know the identity and reputation of the seller,” said the summons.
It was also a question of knowing if the technique used worked on all the terminals of the firm or only the iPhone 5 C.
In her decision, Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan considered that such disclosures could harm the third party, which does not have the same protections as the FBI in the event of a cyber attack. The danger is undoubtedly too great to risk such a tool escaping into the wild, while the cybernetic arsenal of the NSA suffered the same fate last year, with the consequences that we know campaign by ransomware WannaCry and Not Petya in particular). Such information could be the object of attacks by independent hackers or commanded by a foreign power.
At the same time, the judge also refused to disclose the amount paid by the FBI to the third party for service rendered. Over $ 1 million, according to James Comey and Dianne Feinstein. ” Revealing the purchase price would give a fixed value to a technology and help opponents determine whether the FBI can use this technology more widely to access their encrypted devices ,” the court said.
For the small anecdote: no useful information has been found in the iPhone of San Bernardino.