Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why FBI Says It 'Cannot' Share Details of iPhone Hack

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why FBI Says It 'Cannot' Share Details of iPhone Hack

Article excerpt

Story updated at 1:45 p.m. Eastern time.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it will not share the mechanism used to hack into the San Bernardino, Calif., shooter's iPhone with other government agencies.

Earlier this week, the FBI's director had said that he was still considering whether to inform Apple, and the public, of the device vulnerability that enabled a contractor to hack into the phone.

"We are in the midst of trying to sort that out," FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday. "The threshold (for disclosure) is, are we aware of the vulnerability, or did we just buy a tool and don't have sufficient knowledge of the vulnerability to implicate the process?"

The FBI successfully unlocked the San Bernardino County-issued cell phone belonging to Syed Rizwan Farouk, one of the two attackers in the December rampage, following a drawn-out legal battle with Apple pertaining to the tech company's obligation to aid law enforcement.

The FBI eventually gained access to the iPhone after it paid hackers well over $1 million to crack Apple's security measures, an estimate that has been derived from Mr. Comey's current salary based on comments that the contract cost more than he expects to earn in the remainder of his FBI tenure. Despite the hefty price tag, Comey said that the successful penetration "was, in my view, worth it."

The FBI has yet to disclose the identity of the hacker or hackers who aided in the unlocking process, although Reuters sources reported that the help came from outside of the United States. Comey's earlier statements suggested that the FBI does not own the secret method used by the hackers, or perhaps even know exactly what vulnerability was exploited.

Now, Comey's agency has decided to keep all of the details surrounding the hack private. …

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