FBI gets access into iPhone without Apple’s help, but battle isn’t over

A month and a half after the epic battle began between the FBI and Apple over an iPhone at the center of the San Bernardino terrorist attack investigation, the government says it has found a way into the phone and it no longer needs the company’s help. But the privacy vs. national security questions the fight raised are far from answered. The broader case isn’t closed.

For one thing, despite the government’s insistence this was only about one case — that helping the government gain access to the phone wouldn’t have set a precedent, as Apple feared — it’s a fact that other similar requests are pending.

“Unfortunately, this news appears to be just a delay of an inevitable fight over whether the FBI can force Apple to undermine the security of its own products,” Alex Abdo, staff attorney at the ACLU, said in an emailed statement.

In addition, some iPhone users may now be wondering whether their phones are as secure as Apple claims. Reports surfaced last week that an Israeli security company may have found a way to help the U.S. unlock the phone. The Department of Justice in its short filing today did not disclose details about how it was able to access the iPhone, but Howard Mintz points out that the phone in question was an older model and newer iPhones supposedly have stronger encryption.

“If Apple wasn’t already working 24/7 to fix vulnerabilities, they sure are now,” said Fatemeh Khatibloo, a Forrester Research analyst who focuses on privacy, in a phone interview with SiliconBeat.

Fight for the Future, an advocacy group that organized protests against the government at Apple Stores after the Apple vs. FBI fight became public, claimed victory, at least for now.

“This will go down in history as one of the FBI’s biggest public relations failures,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, in an emailed statement. “It couldn’t be clearer that they read the tea leaves, saw they were going to lose both in the court of law and the court of public opinion, and gave up, for now at least.”

Apple has not yet responded to an email for comment.


Photo: Protester Victoria Bernal shows off her phone with the message “Backdoors Endanger Everyone” outside the Apple store in downtown Palo Alto, Calif., on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)


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  • Work hard, invest wisely.

    General thought on various chat blogs is that the government gave up rather than lose face and lose a court battle. One thing is certain. Certain people will be upgrading phones.

  • TrickyDickie

    ‘general thought’ lol
    The truth is that they hacked the phone anyway. Even though the fanboys are in denial about it.

  • Lafayette Escadrill

    I think the FBI waterboarded tiny Tim in order to get the secret code. OR, Apple caved and gave them the code.