The FBI might not need Apple to unlock the phone after all

The government is said to have received help from Israeli cybersecurity company Cellebrite

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
March 23, 2016
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As Apple and the FBI continue to fight over the iPhone seized after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, it looks like one side is not exactly going to wait for the courts to rule before taking action.

The FBI has found a way to go around Apple in unlocking the phone, and has been getting help from Cellebrite, an Israeli cybersecurity company, to help them unlock the phone, according to a report from Yedoith Ahronoth, an Israeli newspaper, on Wednesday.

That would, essentially, make the fight with Apple moot, as the government would no longer need their assistance to unlock the phone in question.

Cellebrite is a company that develops advanced mobile data solutions, enabling the extensive use and management of mobile phone data to provide value for two distinct business divisions: mobile lifecycle and mobile forensics.

There had been signs that the government was looking for alternative routes into the phone, given Apple's intransigence on the issue. Two days ago the government successfully suspended its court case against Apple, as it had found a new way to unlock the phone, after insisting that it could onl do so with Apple's help.

This all happened one day before the FBI was due to meet Apple in court.

If the government can go around Apple to unlock encrypted iPhones, this could interesting ramifications on the way the public feels about security, and about Apple. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook has, successfully, I would say, framed this debate as his company standing up to a dangerous government who would use the ability to unlock any phone it wanted.

"The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge," Cook said in a letter to Apple customers.

"Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government."

While the majority of people have said that they want the phone unlocked, I get the feeling that they want Apple to do it, and would not feel comfortable having the government figure out another way to get their information. At least if Apple was doing it, there would be some measure of control over the process.

Such action could also hurt Apple, as a majority of people, roughly 60 percent, also currently trust the company to keep their data safe. That could change quickly if Apple is suddenly seen as having little to no control over who can access it.

Apple put up a good fight, but, in the end, it looks like it will lose. And so will its customers. 

Cellebrite would not comment on these reports. VatorNews also reached out to Apple and we will update this story if we learn more. 

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