A dramatic new twist in the ongoing battle between Apple and the FBI unfolded on Monday night when the U.S. Department of Justice asked a federal judge to vacate its hearing with Apple that was scheduled for Tuesday. The Cupertino, California-based company was set to begin arguing its case after a judge ordered it to supply the FBI with tools that would allow it to break into an iPhone that had previously belonged to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.
In the DOJ’s request, it stated that a third party may have a means of helping the FBI to break into the iPhone in question without Apple’s help, and the FBI now has until April 5th to provide an update. While the agency refused to disclose who or what this mysterious third party might be, it looks like the company’s cover has now been blown.
Via Reuters, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Wednesday that it has learned the identity of the company that will assist the FBI in hacking its way past the recovered iPhone’s security. According to the report, mobile forensic software and solutions provider Cellebrite is the company in question.
“Cellebrite mobile forensics solutions give access to and unlock the intelligence of mobile data sources to extend investigative capabilities, accelerate investigations, unify investigative teams and produce solid evidence,” the company says on its website. “Cellebrite’s range of mobile forensic products, the UFED Series, enable the bit-for-bit extraction and in-depth decoding and analysis of data from thousands of mobile devices, including feature phones, smartphones, portable GPS devices, tablets and phones manufactured with Chinese chipsets.”
The iPhone recovered from Farook is protected by a lock screen PIN code or password, and all iOS devices with lock screen protection are encrypted. The FBI had requested that Apple build a special version of iOS that would allow it to use a brute force attack to guess the phone’s PIN or password without risking the deletion of the data after too many failed attempts, but we’ve already explained some of the many other ways the FBI might be able to break into the iPhone. It’s unclear if Cellebrite plans to use any of those methods.