US govt says may not need Apple help in iPhone battle

March 22, 2016 4:16 am
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Protesters demonstrate outside the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters building in Washington, DC, in February 2016/AFP
Protesters demonstrate outside the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters building in Washington, DC, in February 2016/AFP

, LOS ANGELES, United States, Mar 22 – The US government said Monday it may have found a way to access the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino attackers without Apple’s help, possibly avoiding a showdown with the tech giant.

On Sunday, “an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone,” Justice Department attorneys said in a court filing.

Overview
  • A California federal judge who was set to preside over a hearing in the crucial case on Tuesday granted the prosecutor's request and asked that a status report be filed by April 5.
  • The new development may help avert, at least for now, a legal showdown between the US government and Apple that could have wide ramifications on digital security and privacy.
  • Federal prosecutors and Apple for weeks have traded a volley of legal briefs related to the FBI's demand that the tech giant help investigators unlock Farook's work phone.

“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. set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case.”

A California federal judge who was set to preside over a hearing in the crucial case on Tuesday granted the prosecutor’s request and asked that a status report be filed by April 5.

The new development may help avert, at least for now, a legal showdown between the US government and Apple that could have wide ramifications on digital security and privacy.

Federal prosecutors and Apple for weeks have traded a volley of legal briefs related to the FBI’s demand that the tech giant help investigators unlock Farook’s work phone.

The FBI says the device may contain critical information for its probe into the December 2 shooting that left 14 people dead and was the deadliest terror attack in the US since 9/11.

Apple, however, has balked at a court order to help investigators, citing customer privacy and security concerns.

The company, backed by security experts, civil rights advocates and other tech giants – including Google, Facebook and Microsoft – contends that assisting the FBI would jeopardize users’ data and set a precedent for other similar cases.

“We need to decide as a nation how much power the government should have over our data and our privacy,” chief executive Tim Cook said, speaking at Apple headquarters to unveil a new line of iPhones and iPads.

“We believe strongly we have an obligation to help protect your data and your privacy. We owe it to our customers. We will not shrink from this responsibility.”

The FBI wanted Apple to write new software – or what the company said was create a “backdoor” – that would allow investigators to circumvent the iPhone’s built-in security.

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