Well, sort of. As reported by CBS News, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is still in the process of analyzing the data from the iPhone 5c unit owned by terrorist Syed Farook, one of the two shooters in the San Bernardino attacks last December that left more than a dozen people killed. As of the moment, the FBI has not found anything that is critically helpful in the investigation.
Much of the FBI’s feud with Apple revolved around that particular iPhone 5c unit. The short version of the story was that the FBI wanted the phone maker to modify its iOS mobile operating system so that the feds can gain access to the information saved in the device. Apple had said no thanks, arguing that providing a backdoor hack that would bypass the security measures put in place in iPhone devices would potentially wreak havoc if acquired by the wrong hands. The feud grabbed some headlines, and inspired new heated debates regarding issues of national security vs individual privacy, of data encryption standing in the way of criminal investigations. But eventually, the FBI sought the help of a third party in successfully hacking into Farook’s iPhone.
The FBI has decided not to publicly reveal the method of hacking the said iPhone unit. And according to a Reuters report, the technique may never be. The reasoning behind this is that the third party responsible for coming up with the iPhone hack is technically the legal proprietor of the process. The White House makes use of a protocol called the Vulnerabilities Equities Process in which flaws in existing technologies are examined and then deliberated upon if they should be publicly divulged or not. This procedure however does not cover flaws detected by private business entities, which means that the third party who hacked Farook’s iPhone is not legally bound to make known how it gained access into the terrorist’s device.
As for the FBI, it is quite possible that the agency never knew how the technique was carried out in the first place. By this logic, how can it reveal how the hack was done when it was not even privy to it?
Considering it was the tech giant’s own product that was being hacked, it would only natural for the company to want to know how its security measures got breached. So what options are available to Apple now? There isn’t much unfortunately, and unless the Vulnerabilities Equities Process undergoes a drastic makeover, Apple will have to reverse engineer that hack.
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