The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made an official decision not to reveal the method used to hack the iPhone owned by one of the terrorists involved in the mass shooting in San Bernardo, California.
In a statement, FBI Executive Assistant Director for Science and Technology, Amy Hess said the agency will not submit its iPhone hacking method to a government review known as the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP).
“The FBI assesses that it cannot submit the method to the VEP. We do not have enough technical information about any vulnerability that would permit any meaningful review,” said Hess.
FBI didn’t acquire the technical details of the iPhone hacking method
The agency spent more than $1.3 million to acquire the iPhone hacking method from a third-party. According to Hess, the FBI didn’t buy the rights to the technical details of how the method functions, or the nature and extent of any vulnerability.
The agency doesn’t have the essential information for the VEP, which determines whether the method should be shared to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) or the public to fix a potential security flaw.
Ross Schulman, a senior policy counsel at the Open Technology Institute, said, “If the FBI believes that the Vulnerabilities Equities Process doesn’t apply because it purchased the vulnerability from a third party, that is a hole in the supposedly robust VEP that you could drive a truck through.”
Tech expert thinks the FBI is “not interested in cybersecurity”
Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Wall Street Journal, “If the government can circumvent the process merely by buying vulnerabilities, then the process becomes a farce. The FBI is not interested in cybersecurity.’’
The FBI and Apple engaged in a controversial legal battle regarding the iPhone encryption. The agency secured a court order requiring Apple to unlock the iPhone in the San Bernardino case, but the tech giant rejected it. The FBI dropped its case against the tech giant after hacking the iPhone successfully using method acquired from a third-party.
“We recognize, however, the extraordinary nature of this particular case, the intense public interest in it, and the fact that the FBI already has disclosed publicly the existence of the method. Accordingly, we determined that it was appropriate to communicate with the interagency group, as well as the public about this important issue,” according to Hess.