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FBI Hacks Into iPhone, asks Court to Vacate Motion to Compel Apple


Who needs you anyway, Apple?

That's what the Justice Department said Monday -- it has successfully accessed data stored on the iPhone that belonged to the San Bernardino gunman without Apple's assistance. The DOJ also said they would ask the District Court to vacate it's Motion to Compel, and dismiss its Federal case against Apple, Inc.

The DOJ says the order is no longer necessary, which not only is a raspberry at Apple, but also calls into question its encryption generally speaking.

The Motion to Dismiss in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California provided no details about how the FBI did it or who showed it how. Apple did not immediately comment on the development.

"As the government noted in its filing today, the FBI has now successfully retrieved the data stored on the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple required by this Court Order," DOJ spokeswoman Melaine Newman said in a statement. "The FBI is currently reviewing the information on the phone, consistent with standard investigatory procedures."

Every pundit in America brought the case to the Court of Public Opinion over the last several months. It was the subject of water cooler chats across America.

The FBI used the technique to access data on an iPhone used by gunman Syed Farook, who died with his wife in a gun battle with police after they killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December. Presumably, they could use it in the future in other cases.

U.S. magistrate Sheri Pym of California in February ordered Apple to provide the FBI with software to help it hack into Farook's work-issued iPhone.

Apple was headed for a courtroom showdown with the government last week, until federal prosecutors abruptly asked for a postponement so they could test a potential solution that was brought to them by an unidentified party the previous weekend.

Technical experts had said there might be a few ways an outsider could gain access to the phone, although the FBI had insisted repeatedly until then that only Apple had the ability to override the iPhone's security. John McAfee, Libertarian candidate for President and former head of a software security company, offered to crack the iPhone for free.

The case drew international attention and highlighted a growing friction between governments and the tech industry. Apple and other tech companies have said they feel increasing need to protect their customers' data from hackers and unfriendly intruders, while police and other government authorities have warned that encryption and other data-protection measures are making it more difficult for investigators to track criminals and dangerous extremists.

The Chinese government, which has a different definition of criminals than our government does, has Apple's full cooperation in breaking encryption. But the US Government, not so much.

The withdrawal of court process also takes away Apple's ability to legally request details on the method the FBI used. Apple attorneys said last week that they hoped the government would share that information with them if it proved successful.

It is possible that the tech giant wanted the showdown with the Feds in order to obtain positive precedent, but no dice.

The encrypted phone was protected by a passcode that included security protocols: a time delay and self-destruct feature that erased the phone's data after 10 tries. The two features made it impossible for the government to repeatedly and continuously test passcodes in what's known as a brute-force attack.

The AP Contributed to the story.


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