Suncorp: The Real Winner in the FBI’s iPhone Unlocking Fight

| Analysis

The FBI found a way into Syed Farook's iPhone and dropped its fight to force Apple to create a hackable version of iOS. The real winner here isn't the FBI or Apple, it's Suncorp—Cellebrite's parent company—who's stock jumped 40 percent in the week since the government said an outside party was helping hack into the iPhone.

Suncorp is the big winner in the iPhone unlocking fightSuncorp is the big winner in the iPhone unlocking fight

Just over a week ago the FBI said it was working with an unnamed outside party to get into the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone. Law enforcement wanted to see the encrypted contents of the phone, but didn't have an easy way to get at it because of the iPhone's built-in security feature that would destroy the data after ten failed passcode attempts.

Law enforcement officers couldn't look at the phone's encrypted data because Mr. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were killed by police after the two opened fire on their San Bernardino County coworkers. The couple killed 14 people and injured 22 others.

The FBI obtained a court order demanding Apple create a custom version of the iPhone operating system without the security features preventing brute force attacks on the passcode, but Apple refused calling the order an overreach of government authority and a dangerous precedent that would strip away digital security and privacy.

The two were scheduled to appear in court to defend their positions last Tuesday, but hours before the hearing the FBI revealed it had a secret partner with a means to get into the iPhone—something the agency adamantly insisted up until then only Apple could do. The hearing was put on hold to see if the mystery company's technique would be successful, and it turns out it was.

Now the FBI says it has the contents of Mr. Farook's iPhone, but isn't talking about which company helped, or what technique they used. The assumption has been it was the Israeli  Cellebrite, which is owned by Suncorp. The company makes forensic tools for extracting evidence from smartphones, and already had contracts with the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the week following the postponed hearing, Suncorp's stock value shot up 40 percent on the assumption Cellebrite hacked into the shooter's iPhone. So far, the FBI, Cellebrite, and Suncorp have refused to confirm who was involved.

Next up: Suncorp and Cellebrite's FBI links

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Lee Dronick

Apple no doubt would like to see this exploit in action so its engineers can find a way to block it and increase the iPhone’s privacy and security protections

No doubt that they have already made some changes. Is it possible that there could be a number security systems on different iPhones of the same model?


It cost the FBI $233,000 to open that iPhone? I don’t see local governments having the funding for this. Perhaps not even the New York City PD.  How willing are local PD’s to turn over phones to the FBI’s jurisdiction?


If you watch the YouTube video closely, you can see that the phone they are working with is iOS7.  Given that we’re on iOS9 now, methinks this doesn’t really amount to a zero day.  That said, I don’t really have the expertise to claim that something is a zero day, especially when those breaking in have physical possession of the phone.  I always thought of a zero day as a software exploit, but maybe it applies to hardware too.

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