Apple controversy spurs hackers to try to break into iPhone

While Apple adamantly refuses to unlock the iPhone, the central point in the standoff between the tech company and the FBI, there are many other individuals willing to give it a shot. Independent phone hacking consultants and freelance hackers are trying to break into the phone used by one of the San Bernardino gunmen, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Trail of Bits, a 21-person security consultancy, is one of the groups trying to access the data in the phone, according to the report. The federal government is working with another third-party organization to unlock the phone. The government previously declined to identify the third party, but an Israeli newspaper named Israeli forensic company Cellebrite Mobile Synchronization as the company helping the government, reports WSJ.

Such companies "occupy a murky world of independent phone-hacking consultants, forensics-equipment vendors and large government contractors who specialize in the technical and often classified work that helps agencies circumvent the computer-security protections developed by companies such as Apple," according to the report.

But these players face more difficult work ahead, as tech companies — notably including Apple — continue to improve and introduce security features, according to the report.

Apple also approaches bug fixes differently than many other tech companies, according to The New York Times. While companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook use "bug bounty" programs where they pay outside hackers to bugs in their software and then share that information with the company, Apple does no such thing. Hackers have no incentive to inform Apple of vulnerabilities, whereas they can receives thousands of dollars from other tech companies for sharing this type of information, according to the report.

Instead of relying on bug bounty programs, Apple relies on itself to find vulnerabilities. Three former and current Apple employees, speaking to NYT anonymously, said Apple does not want to keep with this "financial arms race" of paying for information on software bugs.

However, some experts suggest Apple won't be able to continue operating in this manner for long. Katie Moussouris, a chief policy officer at HackerOne which manages bug bounty programs, told NYT, "Especially with the stakes being as high as they are, if Apple wants to continue to compete in the modern world, they have to modernize their approach."

More articles on Apple vs. FBI:

US may be able to unlock iPhone, DOJ postpones Apple v. FBI hearing 
Does the government need Apple's help unlocking an iPhone? 
Perspective: What the Apple-FBI battle means for health data 

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