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FBI in the Dock Over iPhone Hack Details

Three media groups have gone to the courts to try and force the FBI into disclosing who helped it to hack the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, and how much it cost the taxpayer.

Associated Press, Vice Media and USA Today parent company Gannett have filed with the US District Court in Washington, claiming there’s “no adequate justification” for the FBI withholding the information.

The agency last released a small amount of information last month on the case, although key parts were redacted as it claimed divulging any more could allow black hats to develop “countermeasures” against its work. The news groups claim the FBI is using national security to weasel out of its Freedom of Information Act commitments.

“Release of this information goes to the very heart of the Freedom of Information Act's purpose, allowing the public to assess government activity - here, the decision to pay public funds to an outside entity in possession of a tool that can compromise the digital security of millions of Americans,” lawyers argued, according to the BBC.

The Feds sought outside help to crack the phone of the San Bernardino shooter after failing to get Apple to comply with a heavy-handed court order.

At the time, Apple rightly argued that if it engineered a backdoor to circumvent the phone’s built-in security – including an auto-erase after 10 incorrect guesses and a millisecond delay to neuter brute force attempts – it would set a dangerous precedent and could fall into the wrong hands.

It’s widely believed that the FBI paid in excess of $1 million to an outside group, possibly infamous Israeli firm Cellebrite, to help them crack the iPhone.

Ironically, Cellebrite itself was recently hacked, highlighting the danger of the authorities sanctioning the creation of technology backdoors, which can then quite easily fall into the wrong hands.

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