The FBI says it has hacked into the San Bernardino shooter's phone without Apple's help
Apple won a major victory in its showdown with the government when the Justice Department abandoned its plans on Monday to force the company to write software to bypass iPhone security measures.
The Justice Department withdrew its order compelling Apple to help it retrieve data from an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters on Monday. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym then vacated the original order.
According to the DOJ, the reason it withdrew is because it was able to access the data on the iPhone without Apple's help.
Last week, the DOJ asked to delay a hearing over the issue because the FBI said it had found a "third-party" which may have been able to get into shooter Syed Farook's iPhone, meaning that Apple's help would not be needed. Today's developments indicate that the FBI was successful.
The FBI has now successfully retrieved the data stored on the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple required by the Court Order. The FBI is currently reviewing the information on the phone, consistent with standard investigatory procedures.
It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails. We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors.
It is still unclear what the government did to access the data on Farook's phone. Speculation about the "third-party" has centered on an experimental technique called NAND flash mirroring and an Israeli company called Cellebrite. Apple lawyers said last week that they did not know the technique the FBI was using and that they would seek to force the FBI to reveal it.
Monday's developments mark the end to a saga which began when a court order directing Apple to help the FBI bypass a lock screen security measure on Farook's iPhone was unsealed. Apple appealed not only in court documents, but in a open letter from CEO Tim Cook posted on its site, turning the legal battle into a very public dispute.
Since then, there have been legal filings from both sides featuring severe language. The DOJ has called Apple's stance "corrosive." Cook has called the software that the FBI is requesting that Apple write "the software equivalent of cancer."
The battle between the FBI and Apple surrounds Syed Farook's government-issued iPhone. After he and his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino last December, investigators found his work phone, but were not able to access the data on it because it is encrypted.
The FBI was seeking to force Apple to write software that would allow investigators to try as many passcodes needed to unlock the device without tripping a security measure that would wipe the phone.
Here's the order from Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym vacating the original court order based on updated information from the government's status report:
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