FBI Accessed San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone Without Apple, Drops Lawsuit

by Sheera Frenkel on March 28, 2016

Carolyn Kaster / AP

SAN FRANCISCO — The Justice Department (DOJ) announced Monday that it had successfully accessed data on the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters and that it was dropping its lawsuit against Apple to help unlock the phone.

According to a court filing by the DOJ Monday, investigators are no longer seeking Apple's help to penetrate the device. In a call with reporters Monday evening, a law enforcement official said the FBI is currently reviewing the iPhone's data, which it obtained through the assistance of an outside party. The method they used, he said, worked on an iPhone 5c running a version iOS 9, but added it was, “premature to say anything about our abilities to access other phones.”

The official declined to reveal the name of the outside party who demonstrated the exploit to the FBI, despite widespread speculation over who was involved and what methods they used. The official also declined to say if the method they used would be subject to a government review process, which might force law enforcement to disclose cyber vulnerabilities in the public interest.

The method proved successful this weekend, the official said, one week after the outside party showed the FBI how to gain access to the device.

Apple declined to comment on the DOJ's announcement, and said it does not know which outside party stepped in to help the FBI. The government's move appeared to end a month long standoff between the DOJ and one of the world's most powerful technology companies. Though the larger debate over law enforcement and government access to encrypted devices is far from settled.

Several cases are currently winding their way through the courts, with law enforcement seeking Apple's help to pull data from 12 encrypted devices. And Apple is promising to double-down on efforts to make its phones nearly impossible to breach. In Congress and in the White House, the issue of consumer encryption continues to pose a challenge to policymakers.

Law enforcement officials insist that robust encryption interferes with their ability to prevent and prosecute crime. But the tech industry, privacy-minded lawmakers, and civil liberties groups maintain that encryption plays a vital role in protecting the public against hackers, identify thieves, and sophisticated cyberattacks.

In a statement Melanie Newman, DOJ Spokesperson, said:

As the government noted in its filing today, 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 this 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.

United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said:

The government has asked a United States Magistrate Judge in Riverside, California to vacate her order compelling Apple to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone that was used by one of the terrorists who murdered 14 innocent Americans in San Bernardino on December 2nd of last year. 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.

We sought an order compelling Apple to help unlock the phone to fulfill a solemn commitment to the victims of the San Bernardino shooting – that we will not rest until we have fully pursued every investigative lead related to the vicious attack. 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. The San Bernardino victims deserve nothing less.

The full court filing is below.

The full court filing is below.

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech

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