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Israeli Firm Reportedly Helping FBI Crack San Bernardino Phone (Updated)

Cellebrite is a firm that specializes in mobile forensics.

Maksim Kabakou / Shutterstock

An Israeli mobile forensics firm that touts its “breakthrough ability to unlock Apple devices” is helping the FBI crack into the San Bernardino phone, according to a report in an Israeli newspaper that cites anonymous sources.

Cellebrite, the company in question, did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday and Wednesday. A Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesperson declined comment.

Forensics experts in the U.S. describe Cellebrite as a leader in extracting information from mobile devices. Its website touts the firm’s work with mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and GPS devices. The company says one of its products for analyzing information in the cloud is a “prime choice” of forensic specialists in law enforcement, the military and corporate security.

Cellebrite’s online marketing materials describe a product called UFED Touch, which it touts as the “ultimate solution” for bypassing passwords and extracting information from a variety of devices, including those from Apple. The FBI has a contract with the firm to use this device for casework.

Here’s a promotional video showing how UFED Touch works:

Update: Cellebrite’s site describes the firm’s ability to unlock Apple devices running the last-generation mobile operating system, iOS 8. The iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino attackers, Syed Rizwan Farook, is powered by the more recent — and more secure — iOS 9 software. It is unclear whether the firm has updated its techniques to defeat its encryption.

The company is a subsidiary of the Sun Corporation, a publicly traded Japanese firm. It has offices around the world, including in the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Singapore and the U.K.

The location of its headquarters fits with the odd timing of the third party’s last-minute offer of help in extracting information from a phone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters — which came on Sunday. While not a typical work day for a U.S. firm, because of the time difference it would be Monday in Israel.

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