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Judge Rules FBI Can Keep an iPhone Exploit Secret

In 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation purchased an iPhone exploit from an undisclosed vendor for more than one million dollars. The iPhone that needed exploitation had belonged to the San Bernardino shooter who killed 14 people. During the investigation, the FBI claimed that the lock on the iPhone had prevented authorities from accessing the phone. Three news agencies later sued the FBI under the the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in an effort to gather information on the exploit. In early October, a US federal judge ruled against the news agencies, allowing the FBI to keep yet another major exploit secret from the public.

The FBI first took Apple to court, forcing them to create a software update for the phone that would allow them to bypass the phone’s encryption. As it stood, the phone had been locked and thanks to security features implemented in the iPhone’s software, both Apple and the FBI found themselves unable to simply hack the phone. Apple fought the FBI on their inability to “backdoor” the phone, but the FBI knew that Apple could push a software update that would effectively remove security features on the phone. After several weeks of arguments, the FBI withdrew the motion and dropped the entire ordeal.

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They claimed they had found an alternative method to crack the iPhone’s encryption. More specifically, the agency found a vendor that possessed the ability to backdoor the phone. Former FBI Director James Comey revealed that the exploit had cost taxpayers $1.3 million, but never said anything else. A FOIA lawsuit was then filed by the Associated Press, USA Today, and Vice.

U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the District of Columbia, in her ruling, announced that the vendor’s information—along with the hacking tool or exploit—were exempt from any mandatory government disclosure. “It is logical and plausible that the vendor may be less capable than the FBI of protecting its proprietary information in the face of a cyber attack,” the judge said. The FBI argued that revealing the vendor could put that vendor at risk, especially if the vendor poorly protected information about technology and various exploits.

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Israeli Security Company Can Crack IPhone Encryption and Works with the FBI

Judge Chutkan agreed. Furthermore, she said, revealing the price paid by the FBI could pose a threat to national security. “Releasing the purchase price would designate a finite value for the technology and help adversaries determine whether the FBI can broadly utilise the technology to access their encrypted devices,” the judge explained. Former FBI Director James Comey unintentionally revealed the price the FBI paid for the exploit in 2016, but the FBI still argued that the price needed to remain a secret.

The exploit used by the FBI in Operation Pacifier remained a secret too. And in keeping the exploit a secret, they allowed a suspected pedophile to go free as they refused to reveal the information used to identify the man.

4 comments

  1. Why does everyone believe the FBI’s claim? This has bugged the shit out of me for 2 years. It is MUCH more likely that there is no hack and they never got into the phone.

    The only evidence of the hack’s existence is the FBI saying it does. If you believe law enforcement never lies to the public and courts, then that’s enough evidence for you.

    If such a hack existed, the FBI or DEA or ATF or NSA or CIA or IRS would have already bought it and used it all the fucking time. And no, they would not have alerted the public or Apple about this.

    You think all these federal LEO agencies had no interest in an iphone hack prior to this shooting? You think “an Israeli hacker” would have no interest in selling an iphone zero day prior to this shooting? Word on the street is that hackers don’t find exploits worth millions and then not sell them. Further word on the street is that Israelis like money and don’t give friendly discounts on products they sell. If such a hack existed, it was worth far more than $1.3 million. If an Israeli owned it he sure as shit wouldn’t sell it for a dime less than the he could get for it. The FBI was a desperate buyer with no alternatives and infinite money to spend.

    That alone is already preposterous.

    Additionally, look at the posture of the case at that point. The DOJ like a bunch of dumbshits filed a motion to require an innocent third party PRIVATE ACTOR, Apple, to essentially become a law enforcement entity and use its skills to break into the private property of a suspect.

    This motion was fucking DOOMED. No fucking way it would be granted, at least not on these facts where the suspect is dead and all threats are over. “We might find something on his phone that tells us when and where another crime will occur in the future, or some shit” is hardly the “exigent circumstances” that would be necessary for a court to ever grant such an extraordinary power to compel an innocent, private company that had absolutely no involvement with the crime to become an active participant in the investigation — by sabotaging their own product no less.

    So after the motion is filed, there is the reply brief arguing against it, plus hundreds of amici briefs saying this is totally fucked you can’t grant this, the DOJ realizes “oh fuck they’re right, this motion will be denied and then it will become precedent. we need to try this again but on a case with better facts, like a phone likely to have information about a bomb that will go off or other imminent threat. GOD DAMMIT we can’t just withdraw the motion after we lied our asses off to the judge and the media saying how desperate we are to get inside the phone, matter of life and death etc. We’d come off as the lying cynical machiavellian cunts that we are!

    “Hey I got an idea! Let’s just lie some more! Great news Judge! FBI Agent Deus Exmachina found a hacker named Ira Goldschwarz who opened the phone for us! Therefore we withdraw our motion to make Apple our slave, so you don’t have to rule on our motion. PS there was nothing on the phone at all. Literally, 0 bytes. Nothing to see here. PPS DON’T RULE ON OUR FUCKING MOTION!”

  2. True and any idiot who uses texts or does ilegal trans actions or texts belongs in jail I use a flip phone paid with cash with new cards paid in cash and if you text me I block your number. the only thing in the phone is phone numbers. I even took the stickers off the battery and in phone under the battery. And ill bet I can step on that phone and crush it before they can grab it. By the way stay away from vallhalla! They are either exit scamming or busted.

  3. I think you’re onto something ^ The more power people think these agencies have, the better for business.

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