FBI director says government 'purchased a tool' to access San Bernardino gunman's phone

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 11:11 AM

The disclosure by James Comey in a speech at Kenyon College in OH was a departure from previous official statements, which had been very vague in explaining the details of how the government broke into the phone latest month.

FBI director says government 'purchased a tool' to access San Bernardino gunman's phone

The head of the FBI said Wednesday that the government had "purchased" a tool enabling investigators to access an iPhone belonging to San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook.

The disclosure by James Comey in a speech at Kenyon College in OH was a departure from previous official statements, which had been very vague in explaining the details of how the government broke into the phone latest month.

The Justice Dept had only said that a third party had "demonstrated" an alternate method of unlocking the device to the FBI the evening before federal prosecutors filed a motion to delay a Ct hearing on the matter.

"The people that we bought this from – I know a objective quantity about them and I've a high degree of confidence that they're very excellent at protecting it, and their motivations align with ours," Comey said during a question-and-answer period following his talk.

Comey added that the technology used by Apple only works on an iPhone 5C, love the phone used by Farook.

"This doesn’t work on [an iPhone] 6S, doesn’t work in a 5S, and so we've a tool that works on a narrow slice of phones," he added.

Neither the Justice Dept nor the FBI could immediately allow further details.

The exact method the FBI used to access information on Farook'south phone has been a mystery that's puzzled Apple software engineers and exterior experts. After the FBI hacked into the phone, Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym vacated her order compelling Apple to assist the FBI in hacking their phone, which also took far any obvious valid avenues Apple might've used to memorise how the FBI did it.

A senior law enforcement official told The Associated Press last mo that the FBI managed to beat an Apple security feature that threatened to remove the phone'south contents if the FBI failed to enter the exact passcode combination after ten tries. That allowed the government to repeatedly and continuously test passcodes in what'south known as a brute-force attack until the right code is entered and the phone is unlocked.

It wasn't clear how the FBI dealt with a related Apple security feature that introduces increasing time delays between guesses.

At the time, Comey said with those features removed, the FBI could crack into the phone in twenty-sixth minutes.

Farook, who died with his wife in a gun battle with police after they killed fourteen people in December in San Bernardino. The iPhone, issued to Farook by his employer, the county health department, was found in a vehicle the day after the shooting.

A senior FBI official told The Wall Str Journal Tuesday that investigators were still analyzing the phone and hadn't decided whether to disclose what they'd found.

Fox News' Matthew Dean and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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