US drops Apple case after unlocking attacker’s iPhone

2016-03-29 07:21 - Edvard Pettersson, Alex Webb and Chris Strohm
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Apple iPhone 6s. (Eric Risberg, AP)


Los Angeles - The US said it has gained access to the data on the iPhone used by a terrorist and no longer needs Apple’s assistance, marking an end to a legal clash that was poised to redraw boundaries between personal privacy and national security in the mobile internet age.

The US Justice Department said a week ago that it was approached by an unidentified third party about a possible method to get into the phone.

The government said in a court filing Monday that it “has now successfully accessed the data stored” on the iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife carried out the December attack in San Bernardino, California. The filing provided no details on how investigators got the data.

The Justice Department was fighting Apple in court in an unprecedented showdown when it abruptly asked last week to cancel a hearing before a federal magistrate judge over her order directing the company to help investigators get into the phone.

The decision to drop a legal battle that could have gone all the way to the US Supreme Court marks a win for Apple.

The Cupertino, California-based company resisted being forced to write new software that would make it easier for the FBI to break into the shooter’s phone.

Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said such a move would pose a threat to the privacy of hundreds of millions of iPhone users around the world, arguing that a backdoor of that nature could be exploited by less reputable parties.

While Apple has emerged victorious from the court tussle, the government’s claim that the FBI was able to hack the iPhone with the help of a third party tarnishes the iPhone’s purported security prowess.

Monday’s filing signals that government agencies can break into phones with encryption systems that were designed to make them impenetrable.

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