Sources: FBI will use loophole to avoid disclosing iPhone hack details

Apple wants to know how the FBI accessed the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, but the agency has no plans on giving away the goods, according to sources who have surfaced. These individuals say the FBI's decision to withhold information is due largely in part to its lack of knowledge about how the technology works — while the agency knows how to use the tool, say the sources, it doesn't know the particulars about the iPhone vulnerability and how it exploits it.

Such information comes from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that some people with knowledge of the matter have dished out secrets. The FBI won't have to undergo a White House review when it comes to the tool, according to the sources, because of its lack of knowledge about how it works. Reportedly, the FBI will formally tell the White House this very soon, possibly this week.

Many details about the tool, such as the company behind it and how much the FBI paid for it, are unknown. However, speculation has surfaced a couple of possible companies, and more recently and concretely, FBI Director James Comey indicated that the agency paid more than a million dollars for the software. The tool has since been used to unlock some other phones for law enforcement, but is only compatible with certain phones, namely the iPhone 5c. Apple aims to remove whatever vulnerability let them in quickly.

The FBI could be required to disclose the vulnerability under the White House Vulnerability Equities Process, but only if it is found to have sufficient knowledge of how the tool works — if the agency stays in the dark about the particulars, it can avoid the entire disclosure process, claiming that it merely bought a tool and used it as instructed. According to the sources, the FBI plans to use that loophole.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal