FBI cracks iPhone, no longer needs Apple's assistance

U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker requested the order compelling Apple to assist the FBI to search the phone be vacated.
U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker requested the order compelling Apple to assist the FBI to search the phone be vacated.

The government will drop its case against Apple after it was able to successfully crack an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook staving off at least temporarily a showdown, which privacy advocates have said is inevitable.

In a brief court filing posted by the Washington Post in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker requested the order compelling Apple to assist the FBI to search the phone be vacated.

"The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook's iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court's Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016," the document stated.

Speculation still abounds over how the FBI was able to access the data, but Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said the work was done by the Israeli firm Cellebrite.

However, industry insiders say this move is only delaying an eventual showdown between the government and private industry.

"Unfortunately, this news appears to be just a delay of an inevitable fight over whether the FBI can force Apple to undermine the security of its own products. We would all be more secure if the government ended this reckless effort, ” Alex Abdo, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said in a statement emailed to SCMagazine.com.

Abdo reiterated that the case "was never about just one phone but rather "about an unprecedented power-grab by the government that was a threat to everyone's security and privacy."

While Synack CEO and co-founder Jay Kaplan wasn't surprised by the turn of events, in comments emailed to SCMagazine.com, he expressed surprise "that the FBI didn't seem to exercise all avenues before making this such a public issue."

He explained that once authorities have physical access to a device "the number of avenues to gain access to the data on those devices is more than most people think; between zero-day exploits and other forensic capabilities such as replication followed by brute-force, there will always be a way to get at that data regardless of encryption."

Kaplan said he expects Apple to "begin to pursue what they can do to further lock down their operating systems and hardware -- for them, they want to be perceived as having the most secure devices on the planet, even from the eyes of the government."

He predicted that "We will likely see new security controls and more sophisticated hardware introduced in future versions of iPhone and iOS."

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