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

Sheera Frenkel and Hamza Shaban, writing for BuzzFeed:

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 case against Apple to help unlock the phone.

Investigators are no longer seeking Apple’s help to penetrate the device, according to a court filing by the DOJ Monday.

A week ago the Department of Justice successfully postponed a court hearing after revealing that the FBI had been approached by a third party who had a possible method to unlock the iPhone (subsequently rumored to be Israeli firm Cellebrite). That method appears to have paid off, with the Department of Justice asking the court to vacate the order compelling Apple to assist the FBI and writing in its Status Report to the court that:

The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook's iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court's Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016.

In response to the Department of Justice's Status Report, Apple issued a response to The Verge and other media outlets:

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.