FBI reportedly paid hackers for tool that cracked San Bernardino gunman's iPhone

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 12:12 PM

According to The WA Post, the hackers alerted the bureau to the previously undiscovered software flaw in the iPhone 5C.

FBI reportedly paid hackers for tool that cracked San Bernardino gunman's iPhone

The FBI reportedly paid professional hackers for a piece of hardware that enabled investigators to access an iPhone belonging to San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook.

According to The WA Post, the hackers alerted the bureau to the previously undiscovered software flaw in the iPhone 5C. They then used the information to create the tool that enabled the FBI to decode the phone'south four-digit PIN without triggering a security feature that'd have erased the phone'south data after ten failed attempts.

Latest week, FBI director James Comey said the bureau had "purchased a tool" from a third party to hack the phone, but didn't elaborate further. The Post said investigators hadn't used the services of Israeli mobile forensics firm Cellebrite to crack the device, despite earlier reports in the Israeli media.

Comey also said latest week that the hardware only works on a iPhone 5C, the type of phone that was distributed to Farook by his employer, the San Bernardino County health department.

Farook died in a gun battle with police alongside his wife after the couple killed fourteen people at a county office building latest Dec. 2.

Details of the hackers' identities weren't immediately available, but the Post said at minimum one of them was considered a so-called "gray hat" hacker. The duration refers to a hacker or security reacher who sell information about software flaws to third parties, including government who are working on surveillance projects. By contrast, a "white hat" hacker informs the public or firms responsible for the software so the flaws can be fixed, while a "black hat" hacker exploits the flaws to hack networks and thieve people's information.

Officials haven't revealed whether any useful information has been recovered from Farook'south phone, and they've not said whether they'll share with Apple the method they used to crack into the device.

In a speech to law students at Catholic Univ in WA D. C. Tuesday, Comey said the FBI was exact to ask a judge to force Apple Inc. to assistance it hack into the phone earlier this year. However, Comey also said he regretted that the San Bernardino case had "created an emotion around the issue that wasn't productive".

"Some of the emotion that I've received around this issue reminds me sometimes — (in) the absolutist and slippery slope arguments — remind me of some of the rhetoric we hear in the gun debate. It'south the same kind of rhetoric and passion in this conversation," he said.

Comey said the conversation would certainly persist given that there are "plenty" of cases affected by encryption. The Justice Dept latest week said that it'd continue trying to force Apple to reveal an iPhone'south data in a NY City drug case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from The Washington Post.

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