The FBI Says It Might Not Need Apple To Unlock Gunman's Phone Any More

The FBI Says It Might Not Need Apple to Unlock Terrorist's Phone Anymore

Apparently it was a busy weekend for the FBI. The agency was all set to face off with Apple tomorrow over the unlocking of shooter Syed Farook's phone. But it now says that an "outside party" approached them on Sunday with a way to possibly unlock the phone. TLDR: They might not need Apple to unlock it any more.

First spotted by Nate Cardozo, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it looks like the FBI is asking for a delay so that they can explore this potentially "viable method".

On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook's iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook's iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. ("Apple") set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case.

It would appear that the FBI isn't entirely giving up its option to make Apple unlock the phone. But they're asking for more time to see if this unnamed "outside party" has a method that works.

Interestingly, the motion says that the international attention that the case has received means they're getting offers all the time from people who think they can crack the phone without Apple's help:

Specifically, since recovering Farook's iPhone on December 3, 2015, the FBI has continued to research methods to gain access to the data stored on it. The FBI did not cease its efforts after this litigation began. As the FBI continued to conduct its own research, and as a result of the worldwide publicity and attention on this case, others outside the U.S. government have continued to contact the U.S. government offering avenues of possible research.

Emphasis mine. I sincerely wonder if we'll eventually learn who cracked the phone, should this all work out for the FBI.

[Nate Cardozo and Politico]


Comments

    Jonathan Zdziarski has a good argument about what this method might actually be at http://www.zdziarski.com/blog/?p=5966 . The tl;dr version is that they will hardware hack the phone and use that to bypass the bits that deal with multiple incorrect PINs.

    Anyone else really really hope the outside party fks this up and wipes the phone?

      Nope. Why would you?

        Because if they can successfully get in, then the encryption on an iPhone is worthless. I'm quite enjoying privacy trumping government in this case.

          I don't really think that follows.
          The trouble they've had so far means the security is impressively stiff but logically nothing is ever secure for long. Obviously someone will get in eventually, and maybe there are already hacks to get in anyway (just not available to the FBI).
          If they get in it doesn't mean the iphone security is worthless, it just means it's not entirely invulnerable, which you should never expect it to be anyway.

          I mean, it's not like you need your phone to indefinitely store nuclear launch codes or something.

            I guess realistically it's the whole "10 tries and you're out" that increases security. Anything can be cracked eventually, but if you only get 10 tries before losing any chance it increases protection.

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