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News Organizations Refocus FBI Lawsuit to Question Cost of San Bernardino iPhone Hack Tool

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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A trio of news organizations -- consisting of the Associated Press, Vice Media, and Gannett -- have petitioned a judge in the United States to force the FBI to reveal the exact amount of money it paid for the technology used to crack open an iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook (via BBC).

The same group of news organizations sued the FBI last September to gain more information about how exactly the FBI entered the iPhone, what "outside party" helped with the process, and how much the government paid for it. The new filing appears to tone down that original lawsuit with a focus on the amount spent on the hack tool, and not how it works or who exactly provided it.


Although the FBI never confirmed the rumors, it was widely reported that Israeli mobile software developer Cellebrite was hired to get into Farook's iPhone 5c. A price for the developer's services has only ever been speculated upon.

According to the court filing acquired by the BBC, the three news organizations claim that there is "no adequate justification" for the FBI to continue to withhold the information related to the cost of opening the iPhone. The information they ask for is also specified as not a risk to national security if it does become public, as they simply want "to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the event."
"While it is undisputed that the vendor developed the iPhone access tool, the government has identified no rational reason why knowing the vendor's identity is linked in any way to the substance of the tool, much less how such knowledge would reveal any information about the tool's application," lawyers for the news organisations wrote in the filing to the US District Court in Washington.

"Release of this information goes to the very heart of the Freedom of Information Act's purpose, allowing the public to assess government activity - here, the decision to pay public funds to an outside entity in possession of a tool that can compromise the digital security of millions of Americans."
Back in the midst of the story's development, the identity of the contractors for the iPhone hack was said to be a closely held secret within the FBI, with FBI director James Comey even in the dark as to who exactly was hired to break into the iPhone. While many reports referenced Cellebrite, another suggested it was instead done with the help of "professional hackers," consisting of a "gray hat" researcher who sells flaws to governments, black market groups, or companies that create surveillance tools.

Even though the case is still one of interest among both parties, towards the end of the drama last year the FBI claimed that it found "nothing of real significance" in Farook's iPhone, stating that it answered a few questions about the San Bernardino shooting but provided no new leads.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: News Organizations Refocus FBI Lawsuit to Question Cost of San Bernardino iPhone Hack Tool
 

keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
9,534
25,266
We deserve to know how the government can hack into our phones because it's unconstitutional to begin with.

It was more than likely hacked using NAND mirroring to input the passcode as many times as possible. The same technique can't be used on a 5S or later, which corresponds with what was leaked about the firm's capabilities.

It would also have been jolly expensive based on time alone.

Also, big props to Tim Cook for arguing the case tooth-and-nail to prevent an iOS backdoor.
 

Rocketman

macrumors 603
Also, big props to Tim Cook for arguing the case tooth-and-nail to prevent an iOS backdoor.
True dat!
But but but shouldn't he rather be spending time pushing out new Mac Pros for a vocal minority, instead of protecting our basic rights?
My advise to those folks is buy more MacPros so Apple is incentivised to focus on the line more. Everyone deserves a grid of at least 4 for rendering and 4K production and 23K processing using your Red.
 

thisisnotmyname

macrumors 68020
Oct 22, 2014
2,348
4,931
known but velocity indeterminate
We deserve to know how the government can hack into our phones because it's unconstitutional to begin with.

As much as I dislike governments eroding privacy this case was absolutely NOT unconstitutional as they had a legal warrant for entry into the phone in question. I tend to be on the extreme in my support of privacy but it doesn't help anyone's cause to be inaccurate in statements.
 

SoN1NjA

macrumors 68020
Feb 3, 2016
2,019
2,122
the pool
I personally just submitted an eFOIA regarding the same thing, directed towards the Federal Bureau of Investigation

It's not the most fancy thing, just states

Josh C said:
How much the FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, paid to unlock the iPhone 5c of Syed Farook
 

tgara

macrumors 65816
Jul 17, 2012
1,002
2,769
Connecticut, USA
We deserve to know how the government can hack into our phones because it's unconstitutional to begin with.

No, it isn't.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

The FBI had a legal warrant signed by a judge instructing Apple to assist in recovering data on the phone. And IIRC, the phone in question was owned by Farook's employer, who gave consent to a search of the phone. Nothing unconstitutional about it.

Also, big props to Tim Cook for arguing the case tooth-and-nail to prevent an iOS backdoor.

The only reason an iOS backdoor was not implemented was because the FBI found another way in and withdrew their case. Tim Cook's grandstanding notwithstanding, nothing was resolved, and it is likely that the same issue will arise again in the future.
 

dannyyankou

macrumors G3
Mar 2, 2012
9,512
16,752
Westchester, NY
No, it isn't.



The FBI had a legal warrant signed by a judge instructing Apple to assist in recovering data on the phone. And IIRC, the phone in question was owned by Farook's employer, who gave consent to a search of the phone. Nothing unconstitutional about it..

Of course I know that in this case it was legal to search the phone. But the government having the ability to hack into any phone is a scary thought, and I'm afraid it could be abused
 
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Alenore

macrumors 6502
Apr 7, 2013
423
426
Of course I know that in this case it was legal to search the phone. But the government having the ability to hack into any phone is a scary thought, and I'm afraid it could be abused
Guess what, they also have the means to follow you or get into your house without you noticing! Who would have thought something made by someone could be undone by someone else
 

69Mustang

macrumors 604
Jan 7, 2014
7,544
14,288
In between a rock and a hard place
Of course I know that in this case it was legal to search the phone. But the government having the ability to hack into any phone is a scary thought, and I'm afraid it could be abused
Respectfully, if you knew it was legal AND you were trying to convey your apprehension regarding government hacking, you did yourself a disservice by 1. not stating exactly that, and 2. claiming unconstitutionality which is tantamount to FUD.

Like you, I give the government the side eye when it comes to privacy and possible overreach. History has proven our concerns warranted. Warranted concerns or not, deceptive post like yours does more harm than good. Deception may not have been your intent but it's harder to believe when you say you knew it wasn't true before you posted.
 

MrX8503

macrumors 68020
Sep 19, 2010
2,281
1,586
The only reason an iOS backdoor was not implemented was because the FBI found another way in and withdrew their case. Tim Cook's grandstanding notwithstanding, nothing was resolved, and it is likely that the same issue will arise again in the future.

Nope, the FBI was going to lose the case. Rather than lose and set a precedent not in their favor, they withdrew the case to try again later.
 

tgara

macrumors 65816
Jul 17, 2012
1,002
2,769
Connecticut, USA
Nope, the FBI was going to lose the case. Rather than lose and set a precedent not in their favor, they withdrew the case to try again later.

Right. I'm sure you believe that, Perry Mason. :rolleyes: Pray tell, on what basis was the FBI going to lose this case?
 

miniyou64

macrumors 6502a
Jul 8, 2008
614
2,163
The FBI had a legal warrant signed by a judge instructing Apple to assist in recovering data on the phone. And IIRC, the phone in question was owned by Farook's employer, who gave consent to a search of the phone. Nothing unconstitutional about it.
"A legal warrant signed by a judge?" You have any idea how easy it is to get one of those?
 

larrylaffer

macrumors 6502a
Aug 1, 2009
585
712
Los Angeles
Right. I'm sure you believe that, Perry Mason. :rolleyes: Pray tell, on what basis was the FBI going to lose this case?

I'd say there's a lack of precedent for the government to even think about insisting upon such a software feature. That would be in Apple's favor.

Not to mention the fact that Apple has incredible deep pockets and can afford to keep such a trial tied up in appeals for many years.
 

miniyou64

macrumors 6502a
Jul 8, 2008
614
2,163
Very easy. The guys asking for the warrant are on the same payroll as the guys giving it out. The government always finds a way to brute force their way into something by circumventing their own rules that are supposedly there to limit their own power.
 

tgara

macrumors 65816
Jul 17, 2012
1,002
2,769
Connecticut, USA
I'd say there's a lack of precedent for the government to even think about insisting upon such a software feature. That would be in Apple's favor.

Not to mention the fact that Apple has incredible deep pockets and can afford to keep such a trial tied up in appeals for many years.

And how would the government otherwise get access to this information without Apple's help? Apple essentially declined to help for business reasons, irrespective of the fact that people died. If your wife, daughter, or mother was kidnapped and gang-raped and the phone of one of the perps was recovered, would you not want to know what was on that phone? With new encryption technologies, I'm certain a judge would require Apples assistance, precedent or not.

And Apple may have deep pockets, but the government's are deeper. And given how President Trump assessed the situation, calling Apple out on their refusal to help, it's not crazy to think Congress would pass a law requiring tech companies assist in situations like this. The phone companies already do this.
 
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larrylaffer

macrumors 6502a
Aug 1, 2009
585
712
Los Angeles
And how would the government otherwise get access to this information without Apple's help? Apple essentially declined to help for business reasons, irrespective of the fact that people died. If your wife, daughter, or mother was kidnapped and gang-raped and the phone of one of the perps was recovered, would you not want to know what was on that phone? With new encryption technologies, I'm certain a judge would require Apples assistance, precedent or not.

Not sure how I'd feel. I would guess totally different than if it was my husband, son, or father.

Also, Business reasons? Do you really think that? Have you forgotten that a bunch of the NSA's tools were stolen LAST MONTH?

If you think "business reasons" is truly all there is to it, you need to do a little more research.
 

tgara

macrumors 65816
Jul 17, 2012
1,002
2,769
Connecticut, USA
Not sure how I'd feel. I would guess totally different than if it was my husband, son, or father.

Also, Business reasons? Do you really think that? Have you forgotten that a bunch of the NSA's tools were stolen LAST MONTH?

If you think "business reasons" is truly all there is to it, you need to do a little more research.

Did you read the case briefs filed with the court? That's what they argued. I think it's you who needs to do more research.
 

MrX8503

macrumors 68020
Sep 19, 2010
2,281
1,586
Right. I'm sure you believe that, Perry Mason. :rolleyes: Pray tell, on what basis was the FBI going to lose this case?

If the FBI believed they would have won, they would have continued the case and set the precedent in their favor.

Nope, they bailed and paid $1M+ for the hack.

And how would the government otherwise get access to this information without Apple's help? Apple essentially declined to help for business reasons, irrespective of the fact that people died. If your wife, daughter, or mother was kidnapped and gang-raped and the phone of one of the perps was recovered, would you not want to know what was on that phone? With new encryption technologies, I'm certain a judge would require Apples assistance, precedent or not.

And Apple may have deep pockets, but the government's are deeper. And given how President Trump assessed the situation, calling Apple out on their refusal to help, it's not crazy to think Congress would pass a law requiring tech companies assist in situations like this. The phone companies already do this.

The FBI wanted a universal crack for all iPhones. There were hundreds of iPhones waiting to be cracked. This was NEVER about 1 iPhone.
 
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macs4nw

macrumors 601
.....The only reason an iOS backdoor was not implemented was because the FBI found another way in and withdrew their case. Tim Cook's grandstanding notwithstanding, nothing was resolved, and it is likely that the same issue will arise again in the future.
This is indeed far from over, and worse, we all know where our new potus stands on this issue.
 
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