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FBI: Yes, we bought tool to hack into iPhones, but it doesn’t work on newer models

by Todd Haselton | April 7, 2016April 7, 2016 7:40 am PST

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The FBI has confirmed what everyone already suspected: that it bought the tool to crack into the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone. The move was made after Apple and the FBI squared off in court. Apple refused to back down and provide the government with keys into a locked iPhone. In fact, Apple said it didn’t even have the keys or a backdoor inside.

Speaking with CNN, FBI director James Comey said that, while the tool helped the FBI into the iPhone, he doesn’t think the firm would ever sell similar technology to folks for more nefarious purposes.

“The people we bought this from, I know a fair amount about them, and I have a high degree of confidence that they are very good at protecting it, and their motivations align with ours,” Comey said. He didn’t confirm the company, but it’s largely believed to have been provided by Israeli firm Cellebrite.

Comey also added that the tool doesn’t actually work with newer iPhones, which means the FBI was sort of lucky the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone was an older model. He suggested anything older than the iPhone 5s will work but, newer phones like the iPhone 6 and onward would still be protected from the tool the FBI used.

Comey told CNN that he’s not sure if the FBI is going to fill Apple in on the secret way into the iPhones, since he believes Apple will ultimately “fix it, then we’re back where we stated from.”


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...