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March 28, 2016

Israeli Firm Helps FBI Crack San Bernardino Terrorists’ Phone Encryption

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Amos Yadlin

Note: This post was updated on April 5, 2016 to reflect more current information

An Israeli digital forensics firm reportedly is helping the FBI try to gain access to data believed stored in an iPhone used by one of the terrorists killed in the Dec. 2, 2015 San Bernardino, Ca. attack that murdered 14 people and injured 22 others.

USA Today reported (“New Twist in Apple Case Leads to Israel,” March 24, 2016) that Cellebrite, a company headquartered in Petah Tikva—a suburb of Tel Aviv—is working with the FBI to help access the phone. The paper noted that Cellebrite has associated offices in “Parsippany, N.J., and affiliates in Europe and Asia.” It also has a history of working with the FBI, having previously provided kits for extracting data from cell phones in 2013.

Cellebrite’s mobile forensics division has developed a mobile-extraction device that may enable the bureau to access the phone’s encrypted data without assistance from Apple. USA Today noted that “the potential for this hack enabled the Department of Justice to ask for an eleventh-hour postponement in its hearing over a court order, fought by Apple, that the iPhone creator write a software override to the terrorist’s phone.”

Private entities are not the only groups of Israelis working to forestall and investigate Islamist terror in the West.
The former head of the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, said on March 27 that Israeli intelligence sharing with Western counterparts had prevented additional terrorist attacks (“Former head of military intel: Russian army still in Syria,” Israel Hayom, March 27).

The Times of Israel reported on March 28 that the head of the U.S. National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, “paid a secret visit to Israel last week to discuss cooperation in cyber-defense, in particular to counter attacks by Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah (“NSA chief ‘makes secret Israel trip to talk Iran, Hezbollah cyber-warfare”).” Rogers, who also oversees the U.S.’s Cyber Command, met with commanders from the IDF’s 8200 intelligence unit, which focuses on signal intelligence (SIGINT) and code decryption.

As CAMERA has noted (“Where’s the Coverage? Iran Cyber-Attacked New York City-Area Dam,” Dec. 22, 2015), Iran, a country that has funded Islamist terror groups, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah, is alleged to have been behind hacking attacks aimed at both the United States and Israel.

In fighting the common enemy of jihadist terror and those who sponsor it, U.S. and Israeli national security and technology cooperation will remain an important if not always reported story.

Update: An April 2, 2016 Washington Post article, "FBI ponders sharing tool to help unlock iPhone with local law agencies," noted: "The firm that helped the bureau—not the Israeli company Cellebrite, as had been widely rumored—charged a one-time flat fee, officials said. The bureau is not releasing the company's name."



Posted by SD at March 28, 2016 01:36 PM

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