Media Sue FBI to Learn How It Hacked into Terrorist’s iPhone

Blue iPhone 5C

Three media companies including Associated Press sued the Federal Bureau of Investigation to learn more details on how it was able to bypass iPhone’s authentication security feature in the San Bernardino case.

The FBI was able to crack open the iPhone 5C of one of the San Bernardino shooters after the Justice Department had failed to force Apple in court to create a backdoor in the phone’s security for federal investigators to sneak in.

Cyber security activists fiercely criticized the lawsuit for creating a dangerous slippery slope. Critics argued it could leave gates wide open to government prying into citizens’ communications.

The scandal ended with the news that FBI managed to bypass iPhone’s self-destruct feature in case of multiple login attempts. The agency said that an “outside party” did the job for them, but remained silent on the specifics.

The Suit

Currently, three major media outlets want to learn more about the cyber security tool the government used in the hack. Additionally, the plaintiffs seek to force the FBI to disclose how much it paid for the operations.

The three media companies filed the lawsuit in a federal court in Washington. The three plaintiffs are Vice Media, AP, and Gannet, which owns USA TODAY. The trio said that they had tried to obtain the info from FBI through other means but with no success. They were pointing to the Freedom of Information Act.

In the lawsuit, the media firms argued that the federal agency has “no lawful basis” to keep that info secret. On Friday, the White House said both the administration and FBI have “tried to be as transparent as possible.” However, because of the “sensitive nature” of the data, they refused to discuss the case “openly.”

San Bernardino Gunman’s Phone

In the San Bernardino mass killing, the said iPhone’s owner and his wife killed 14 people and injured 22 more. The terrorist said it had ties to the Islamic State before he started firing.

As a result, federal agents later tried to access the gunman’s iPhone to learn what other information he had on the terror group. The FBI told Congress that one of the iPhone’s security features prevented its technicians from hacking into it.

The feature erased data after 10 unsuccessful attempts of typing in the correct password. In February, a California company ordered the iPhone maker to write a tiny piece of software that would allow agents fend off the security feature.

Apple appealed the ruling and joined forces with other tech giants against the Justice Department in a 43-day-long standoff. Apple’s chief executive described the ruling as “unprecedented” and argued that it poses a real threat to the company’s customers.

But in March, the lawsuit ended abruptly when Justice Department told the court that it has found a way to bypass the handset’s security. The FBI said back then it no longer required Apple’s assistance.

Nevertheless, the agency refused to disclose who hacked the iPhone and how much they charged for it. In April, an FBI source said the deal costed over $1 million. But on a later date, the agency added that the hack was “well worth” the price.

Image Source: Wikipedia