The U.S. government has the means to crack an iPhone. How long will it keep that a secret?

Days after federal officials announced that a third party had assisted the FBI in opening the locked iPhone of San Bernardino mass killer Syed Farook, the means of the hack — and the third party involved — remain secret.

How long they remain a secret will be determined by how vital the government believes the vulnerability found in this iPhone is to national security. Any information the bureau lets out increases the likelihood that Apple will isolate the vulnerability and close it on future products. But keeping the hack under lock and key means other law enforcement agencies wishing to pull evidence from iPhones connected to all kinds of crimes will have to ask the FBI for help.

“It’s the sole means the U.S. government has to conduct investigations with iPhones,” one former White House counterterrorism official told International Business Times. For the government, he said, the danger is that Apple “fixes the vulnerability and continues to be noncooperative in future cases.”

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