Federal Bureau of Investigation Stories March 29

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See italicised updates below, with statements from both the Department of Justice and Apple.

The battle between the FBI and Apple over accessing a work phone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists started as headline news and ended in a rather anti-climactic fashion.

The high-profile congressional hearing was due to be followed by a big showdown in court. Instead, the FBI asked that the hearing be vacated, and later quietly announced that it had, with help, managed to gain access to the phone. Nothing to see here, move along.

But while this particular case may be settled, it’s extremely unlikely that this will be the end of the matter – for two reasons …

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While the FBI has successfully accessed the data on the iPhone 5c in the San Bernardino shootings, and the court battle is over for now, the government says that it may not accede to Apple’s demand to be told the method used.

The White House said back in 2014 that the government would consider the pros and cons of disclosing vulnerabilities discovered by its various law enforcement agencies. ArsTechnica asked whether the FBI would reveal the method used in this case, and was told that it wasn’t saying one way or the other …

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Federal Bureau of Investigation Stories March 28

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Federal Bureau of Investigation Stories March 23

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Israeili YNetNews reports that the so-far unnamed “third party” which has offered to help the FBI try to break into the San Bernardino iPhone is Cellebrite, a mobile forensics company based in Israel.

The FBI has been reportedly using the services of the Israeli-based company Cellebrite in its effort to break the protection on a terrorist’s locked iPhone, according to experts in the field familiar with the case. Cellebrite has not responded to the report. But if it is indeed the “third party” in question, and it is able to break into the terrorist’s iPhone, it would bring the high-stakes legal showdown between the government and Apple to an abrupt end. Cellebrite, considered one of the leading companies in the world in the field of digital forensics, has been working with the world’s biggest intelligence, defense and law enforcement authorities for many years. The company provides the FBI with decryption technology as part of a contract signed with the bureau in 2013.

Cellebrite declined to comment officially, and no information was given as to the method the company plans to use. One unlikely source claims to know …

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Federal Bureau of Investigation Stories March 21

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A detailed behind-the-scenes look by Bloomberg at the showdown between Apple and the FBI details how it had been on the cards for years before the San Bernardino shootings. Among the details revealed are that Apple provided the FBI with early access to iOS 8 so that the agency could understand the impacts ahead of its introduction.

The government’s concern about Apple’s increasing use of strong encryption dates back to 2010, said one source.

Long before iOS 8 was launched, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies had fretted about Apple’s encryption, according to a person familiar with the matter. In 2010, the company introduced the video-calling app FaceTime. It encrypted conversations between users. The following year, the iMessage texting application arrived; it, too, featured encryption. While neither of these developments caused a public stir, the U.S. government was now aware how much of a premium Apple put on privacy.

It was around this time, says the piece, that the FBI started pushing the White House to introduce new legislation which would guarantee law enforcement access to data on smartphones and other devices. These attempts were reportedly abandoned when the Snowden revelations changed the public mood …

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Federal Bureau of Investigation Stories March 17

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Harvard Law professor Susan Crawford and former special assistant to President Obama has written a blog post setting out the reason why she believes it is legally impossible for the FBI to win its case. The piece is entitled ‘The Law is Clear: The FBI Cannot Make Apple Rewrite its OS.’

While the FBI is relying on an extremely broad interpretation of the All Writs Act, Crawford points out that it is an accepted principle that specific laws take precedence over more general ones – and there is a specific law which outlaws what the FBI is asking for …

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