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With Finality, F.B.I. Opts Not to Share iPhone-Unlocking Method

The F.B.I. on Wednesday closed the door to the possibility of sharing with Apple the solution it bought to break into the iPhone used by one of the attackers in the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

The decision keeps Apple in the dark about the technical details of how the Federal Bureau of Investigation — with the help of an unknown outside group — managed to get around the phone maker's vaunted encryption system.

After a two-month legal battle that grew increasingly tense, the F.B.I. for weeks had considered whether the government was obligated to tell Apple how it finally managed to get into the iPhone 5c phone used by Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino attackers.

Last month, the F.B.I. paid an unidentified outside group at least $1.3 million to demonstrate how to get around the internal encryption that had blocked investigators' access. But just how that was accomplished was not known.

In a statement on Wednesday, the F.B.I. said it had decided not to send the issue to a special White House committee that reviews questions of whether American intelligence agencies have discovered software "vulnerabilities" that should be shared with the software maker.

"The F.B.I. purchased the method from an outside party so that we could unlock the San Bernardino device," Amy S. Hess, executive assistant director for science and technology, said in a statement.

"We did not, however, purchase the rights to technical details about how the method functions, or the nature and extent of any vulnerability upon which the method may rely in order to operate. As a result, currently we do not have enough technical information about any vulnerability that would permit any meaningful review" by the White House examiners, she said.

[Source: By Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times, Washington, 27Apr16]

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Privacy and counterintelligence
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