Now that it managed to hack the San Bernardino iPhone without Apple’s help, the FBI isn’t ready to tell the press whether any of the data it extracted from the phone is actually useful for the ongoing investigation.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a senior official said the agency won’t discuss what it found so far until the examination is complete.
The FBI’s general counsel James Baker was apparently peppered with questions about the iPhone in the terrorist investigation at a conference of the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Just a week earlier, the FBI announced it cracked the San Bernardino iPhone with the help of a third party company that was not named, and dropped the court case against the iPhone maker.
Baker said the FBI won’t decide what to say or do about the iPhone until it has spent more time examining the phone-cracking tool and the information it derived from this hack. It’s “simply too early” to say whether anything valuable resides on the phone.
FBI critics stated that it’s likely the iPhone 5c belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters will not contain any useful data, given that Syed Farook and his wife destroyed their personal computers and smartphones before the attack. That was just speculation, and the FBI is yet to confirm whether that’s the case.
“We’re now doing an analysis of that data, as we would in any other type of criminal terrorism investigation,’’ Baker said. “That means we would follow logical leads.”
FBI’s counsel acknowledged the case is unusual for the agency as it comes with other problems. For instance, the FBI might use the same iPhone hack to open devices from other criminal investigations. Furthermore, it’s not clear yet whether the FBI will tell Apple how these hacks are performed.
“We are discussing a whole range of issues associated with the solution,” Baker said. “It raises a whole range of issues in terms of how we’re going to handle it going forward. Normally we don’t have such detailed real-time public discussions of precise surveillance tools… There’s a significant amount of novelty to us.”