The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that it will not publicly disclose the method that allowed it to access a locked iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers, saying it lacks enough “technical information” about the software vulnerability that was exploited.
The decision resolves one of the thorniest questions that has confronted the federal government since it revealed last month, with minimal details, that an unidentified third party had come forward with a successful method for opening the phone. The FBI did not say how it had obtained access, leaving manufacturer Apple Inc. in the dark about how it was done.
The new announcement means that details of how the outside entity and the FBI managed to bypass the digital locks on the phone without help from Apple will remain secret, frustrating public efforts to understand the vulnerability that was detected and potentially complicating efforts to fix it.
In a statement Wednesday, FBI official Amy Hess said that although the FBI had purchased the method to access the phone – FBI Director James Comey suggested last week it had paid more than $1 million – the agency did not “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.”