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Apple Off the Hook? FBI Gains Access to San Bernardino iPhone and Drops Demands


Editor in Chief
Jul 27, 2011
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The Department of Justice reported late yesterday that they had gained access to the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone. Because of this, they are dropping their court case which sought to force Apple to open the phone for them.

The court filing to drop the FBI demands against Apple did not specify how they gained access to the device, nor what they found on it (if anything). Interestingly, the Feds have actually refused to identify which third party hacked the iPhone for them, even though it was widely reported that the security company Cellebrite had been hired by them.

Officials also declined to share whether this method used to unlock the iPhone 5c can be used to unlock other iPhones. This point was central to Apple's stance against the FBI's court case. Apple argued that they would be forced to create a "master skeleton key" in order to unlock this device which would leave all of their iPhones vulnerable.

A large number of Silicon Valley tech conglomerates (including Google, Facebook, Tesla and others) filed an official motion in support of Apple's stance against the FBI's court order. The other big reason all of these Tech Titans arrayed against the court order was because they felt the order was an unconstitutional overreach designed to give the FBI extra, un-legislated power against its citizens.

Apple responded late Monday, saying the case should have never been pursued against them to begin with. Apple's contention was that it would have set a dangerous precedent. Apple also reiterated their intent to assist with future law enforcement investigations, even as they will continue to enhance the security of their devices. Here's one of Apple's statements,

“Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk."

Here's a quote from the WSJ with a few more final points,

Justice Department spokeswoman Melanie Newman said the FBI "is currently reviewing the information on the phone, consistent with standard investigatory procedures."

The Justice spokeswoman also signaled that while this particular phone is no longer at issue, the broader fight over encryption-protected technology is likely to continue.

So, is it easily forgotten and time to move on? This is likely an issue which will come up again, so we will leave it up for you folks to discuss what the future holds.
Here's Apple's full response, for those who are interested,

"From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.

We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated.

Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk.

This case raised issues, which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy. Apple remains committed to participating in that discussion."
Apple may be off the hook in this particular case but I wouldn't be surprised if the DOJ tries again in the future, especially if the method used in the San Bernardino iPhone won't work on the newer iPhones.

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