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Cellebrite executive talks iPhone hacking in rare interview

iPhone Security

In the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack of 2015, Apple found itself involved in a bitter stand-off with the FBI. Famously, Apple refused to create a custom version of iOS that would have provided the FBI with an endless number of passcode guesses in order to access a locked iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists. Not to be deterred, the FBI eventually managed to access the device with the help of a third-party security firm. And though the FBI never publicly disclosed who it partnered up with, reports suggest it was an Israeli-based company called Cellebrite.

While security companies like Cellebrite ideally prefer to avoid the spotlight, the company was thrust back into the news this week following a report that it has developed the capability to essentially hack into any locked iPhone running any iteration of iOS, including the recently released iPhone X. In turn, the company has already started advertising its workaround to law enforcement authorities around the world.

In the wake of that report, Cellebrite chief marketing officer Jeremy Nazarian provided Forbes with an extremely rare interview. While the interview naturally didn’t touch on any of the company’s capabilities, it nonetheless provides us with a unique look at a top-tier security company whose business model rests on hacking into devices designed to be exceptionally secure.

Addressing criticism that Cellebrite should be more willing to share its software workarounds with Apple, Nazarian articulated that Cellebrite’s tools represent an invaluable resource for law enforcement agencies aiming to catch some of the world’s worst criminals.

There’s a public safety imperative here. These capabilities are germane again to homicide, crimes against children, drug gangs, major public safety threats in any community.

With respect to any concerns that Cellebrite’s workarounds might fall into the wrong hands, Nazarian explained:

It requires physical access. It’s not like anyone is listening to your iPhone or my iPhone. It needs to be obtained as evidence as part of an investigation or a case. There’s nothing inherent in the technology that means it’s open to misuse.

The full interview is well worth checking out and can be viewed over here.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.