FBI to Apple: No Worries, We Hacked Your iPhone

So ends the legal dispute over Syed Farook's device
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 28, 2016 6:12 PM CDT
FBI to Apple: No Worries, We Hacked Your iPhone
This Feb. 17, 2016 file photos an iPhone is seen in Washington. The dispute over whether Apple must help the FBI hack into a terror suspect's iPhone is about to play out in a Southern California courtroom.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster,File)

The FBI said Monday it successfully used a mysterious technique without Apple Inc.'s help to hack into the iPhone used by a gunman in a mass shooting in California, effectively ending a pitched court battle between the Obama administration and one of the world's leading technology companies. The government asked a federal judge to vacate a disputed order forcing Apple to help the FBI break into the iPhone, saying it was no longer necessary. The court filing in US District Court for the Central District of California provided no details about how the FBI did it or who showed it how (some reports say the Israeli company Cellebrite hacked the iPhone, CNET reports, and this blog apparently shows how to do it). Apple did not immediately comment on the development.

The surprise development also punctured the temporary perception that Apple's security might have been good enough to keep consumers' personal information safe even from the US government—with the tremendous resources it can expend when it wants to uncover something. The FBI used the technique to access data on an iPhone used by gunman Syed Farook, who died with his wife in a gun battle with police after they killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December. "This shows that Apple was right all along that it was not necessary for the government to make it weaken its encryption to get what it needed pursuant to its warrant," a law professor tells Ars Technica. But Apple now has to handle "the inevitable PR debacle" and consider that the hacking method "could be aired in public as court evidence," says Apple Insider. (More Apple stories.)

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