Report: Israel's Cellebrite will break open iPhone for FBI

According to a number of media reports, Israeli company Cellebrite is the unnamed "outside party" that is working with the FBI to unlock an iPhone 5c belonging to one of the killers involved in December's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

According to Reuters, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in Tel Aviv first reported that Cellebrite was the company working with U.S. law enforcement to unlock the device. Officials from Cellebrite, Apple and the FBI have declined to comment on the reports.

As BuzzFeed pointed out, Cellebrite in 2013 signed a sole-service contract with the FBI to provide data-extraction service. Moreover, the Cellebrite site boasts that the company can obtain data from Apple phones that use the iPhone's most recent operating system. And a case study on the Cellebrite site shows the company has worked with U.S. law enforcement to unlock phones, including an LG phone for the Tacoma, Wash., Police Department.

Cellebrite is one of a number of companies purportedly offering tools to break into locked devices.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Justice Department claimed that "an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method" for unlocking the phone. The statement coincided with a judge's ruling calling off a much-anticipated courtroom showdown between Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Justice Department said continued testing is required to determine whether the unlocking method won't compromise data on the phone. "If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple," the government said. The Justice Department said it will provide a status update on the topic April 5.

The government had been working to force Apple to assist in the investigation by breaking into the phone. Apple, for its part, has taken a very public stance against unlocking the phone. CEO Tim Cook last month posted a public letter defying the FBI's request to unlock the phone, saying the order "has implications far beyond the legal case at hand" and that creating a "back door" to its devices would enable criminals and governments to violate its customers' privacy.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this BuzzFeed article

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