FBI ends legal battle with Apple, as it accesses San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone without Apple’s help
And Apple still doesnt know how FBI did it
Federal officials have successfully cracked the iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter and as a result dropping their legal battle against Apple. The FBI was able to unlock the phone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers without help from Apple.
The move comes a week after Justice Department officials put a sudden hold on their demands that Apple assist the FBI with an announcement that an outside group had offered a way to hack into the iPhone.
Aided by the unnamed group, FBI technology experts had been at work since, testing the method to confirm it could open the iPhone without jeopardizing its contents.
In a court filing asking that the case be dismissed, federal prosecutors said the US Government had “successfully accessed the data stored on [Syed Rizwan] Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires assistance from Apple Inc”.
“Our decision to conclude the litigation was based solely on the fact that, with the recent assistance of a third party, we are now able to unlock that iPhone without compromising any information on the phone,” U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker said in a statement after prosecutors asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym to vacate an order compelling Apple’s cooperation.
While the stunning move averts a courtroom showdown pitting Apple against the government, it leaves an unsettled vexing debate over privacy and security amidst rapid advances in technology. Apple struck a defiant tone mentioning in a statement that the “backdoor” into its phones sought by prosecutors “would set a dangerous precedent…. This case should never have been brought.”
Backed by a broad coalition of technology giants like Google and Facebook, Apple was strongly opposed to assisting the US Government in unlocking the device on the grounds that it would have wide-reaching implications on digital security and privacy.
In December last year, Farook and his wife killed 14 people and injured a further 22 in the California shooting. The couple died in a shootout with police after the rampage.
Ms Decker said the Government’s request to Apple was part of its “solemn commitment” to the shooting victims.
“Although this step in the investigation is now complete, we will continue to explore every lead and seek any appropriate legal process to ensure our investigation collects all of the evidence related to this terrorist attack,” she said.
Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, a non-profit that supports Apple, said the announcement was evidence that the Government had an alternative motive in the case.
“The FBI’s credibility just hit a new low,” he said in a statement. “They repeatedly lied to the court and the public in pursuit of a dangerous precedent that would have made all of us less safe.
“Fortunately, internet users mobilised quickly and powerfully to educate the public about the dangers of backdoors, and together we forced the Government to back down.”
Apple is yet to comment on the US justice department’s announcement.