Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Pipeline to Russia?


As technology advances at a rapid pace,it is obvious that the FBI has not been able to keep pace with it on all fronts. And as a sop to Republicans, it is not surprising that the FBI has outsourced some of its shortcomings. What is a surprise is the use of an Israeli company.
A small Israeli company appears to be plugging a big hole in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s technical capabilities – and the relationship raises questions about the bureau’s evolving role in cybersecurity.

Over the last five years, the FBI has paid $2.5 million to the Israeli company, Cellebrite, for a wide range of services including cracking open and extracting data from locked Apple iPhones and mobile phones from all other major manufacturers, a relationship that illustrates the FBI’s lack of in-house expertise in some areas of digital security.

That’s a surprising gap, given the FBI’s pre-eminent position in a variety of cyber investigations, ranging from breaking up arms-trafficking rings on underground websites and nailing software pirates to tracking down sympathizers of Islamic State extremists.

Whether the Trump administration intends to keep the FBI in that cyber crime role is uncertain, however. A leaked six-page draft of an executive order on cybersecurity policy did not mention the FBI, though the fate of that draft order is also unknown. The signing of the order, once on the White House calendar, has been delayed indefinitely.

Secrecy cloaks several aspects of the relationship between the FBI and Cellebrite, which is headquartered in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva, Israel.

Neither the FBI nor Cellebrite will say whether the company was involved last year in unlocking the iPhone 5C of Syed Farook, the shooter in the San Bernardino, California, attack in December 2015 that left 14 people dead and was considered an act of Islamic terrorism.

That case led the FBI to lean heavily on Apple to alter its iPhone operating system to give law enforcement a “back door” into locked devices. In a public letter to Apple customers, Chief Executive Tim Cook decried government “overreach” and said such action “would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”

A year on, the issue has turned to whether the FBI itself has failed to stay up-to-date on needed capabilities to deal with crimes and terrorism in which there is a digital component.

“There’s a consensus in the research community that the FBI has been underinvesting,” said Alan Butler, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research group. “It’s not fair for the FBI to demand of Apple and other companies to weaken the security of their consumer products when it’s the agency that hasn’t been investing enough.”
This failing is compounded by the common knowledge that Israeli intelligence is a major Russian source of American secrets. for profit, and it is impossible for a company in Israel to function in this area without the sanction of Israeli intelligence. No doubt the Russians are happy to know where their friend Comey has let down the FBI's guard/

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