FBI Worked With Israel's Cellebrite to Crack iPhone

Plot Thickens in Apple vs. FBI Privacy Battle

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation worked with Israel’s Cellebrite Mobile Synchronization Ltd. to crack the iPhone used in the shooting last year in San Bernardino, California, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday it gained access to the data on the shooter’s phone, after it said it was approached by a third party about a possible way in. The FBI had been locked in a standoff with Apple Inc. for a month over accessing data on the phone used by Syed Rizwan Farook in the attack. Apple refused to comply with a court order to unlock the phone, saying it was an unreasonable demand on the company and threatened the privacy and data security of millions of iPhone users.

The FBI was already a Cellebrite client before this project, the people said, who asked not to be identified as the matter is private. Cellebrite, founded in 1999, is a unit of Japan’s Sun Corporation. Sun Corp.’s shares are up almost 40 percent since March 21 when U.S. authorities said a third party had demonstrated a way to get into the iPhone.

The successful cracking of the iPhone ended the government’s legal battle with Apple for now. The case was likely to have escalated to the Supreme Court, where a ruling would set legal precedents of personal privacy in the Internet age.

Cellebrite declined to comment. The company’s relationship with the FBI on this case was first reported last week by Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli daily. U.S. law enforcement officials have declined to disclose who helped it get into the iPhone.

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