James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said the agency’s new method to unlock the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iPhone 5c used by one of the shooters in San Bernardino California, will not work on newer models.
During a conference on encryption and surveillance at Kenyon University in Ohio on Wednesday, Comey said, “We have a tool that works on a narrow slice of phones.”
According to the FBI director, the agency cannot use its new unlocking technique on the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and 6S. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) already discontinued the iPhone 5C, which was introduced to the market in 2013.
The FBI unlocked the iPhone 5C using the new technique provided by a third-party, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) last month. The agency did not identify the third party.
There had been reports indicating that Cellebrite, an Israeli offering mobile forensic software helped the FBI unlock the iPhone 5C. The company is considered one of the leaders in digital forensics worldwide.
Law enforcement still needs Apple’s help to unlock new iPhone models
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies will likely still need the assistance of Apple to unlock its newer iPhones involved in other cases given the fact that the new technique is only useful to break into older models.
The DOJ already ended its legal battle against Apple related to the iPhone 5C in San Bernardino. However, its case against the tech giant involving an iPhone 5S owned by a drug dealer in Brooklyn was not yet resolved. Prosecutors in the case are expected to update the court by April 11 whether they would “modify” their request for Apple’s help to unlock the device.
Apple previously stated that if the DOJ claims the FBI’s new unlocking method will not work on the iPhone 5S in the Brooklyn case, it will seek to test that claim.
FBI started briefing senators
A representative from the office of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California confirmed that the FBI started briefing lawmakers regarding its new technique.
The agency offered a briefing to Sen. Feinstein and Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. Feinstein is the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Burr is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Both senators believed that the FBI should not give Apple any information regarding its unlocking method.
“I don’t believe the government has any obligation to Apple,” said Feinstein in an e-mail to the National Journal.