US Government Says it May Not Need Apple's Help Unlocking Terrorist's iPhone

US Government Says it May Not Need Apple's Help Unlocking Terrorist's iPhone

iPhone 5

The US government has filed a motion to vacate its hearing tomorrow in its case against Apple, saying it may have another way of accessing the iPhone in question.

Just ahead of a Tuesday hearing that would determine whether or not Apple should be forced to help investigators break into an iPhone used by Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters, the US government has said that it may not need the company's assistance after all.

In a court filing today, Justice Department lawyers wrote that an outside third party had provided a way for the FBI to potentially unlock the phone without requiring Apple to develop new software - however, this method must be tested in order to ensure that no data on the phone is compromised. The Justice Department has requested that the scheduled hearing be canceled, and a status report will be filed by April 5.

"Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook's iPhone," the Justice Department wrote in the filing. "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."

Last month, a District Court Judge ordered Apple to assist in the investigation by creating a new customized iOS firmware that would weaken its established security features, which would assist the FBI in accessing the data on the phone. The order, Apple CEO Tim Cook argued, would force Apple to create a backdoor into iPhones. Apple engineers have said that they would quit their jobs before complying.

In a recent interview with The Escapist, cybersecurity expert and Libertarian presidential candidate John McAfee warned of the potential for foreign governments and hackers to exploit any security weakness in a cell phone's software, saying: "Someone could watch your daughter taking a shower if she takes her phone into the bathroom with her. Someone could watch you with your wife, or you with your husband, in the bedroom, if your phone is handy and nearby. We're talking about monumental invasion into the privacy of the family, of the individual. The entire society."

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"Someone could watch your daughter taking a shower if she takes her phone into the bathroom with her. Someone could watch you with your wife, or you with your husband, in the bedroom, if your phone is handy and nearby. We're talking about monumental invasion into the privacy of the family, of the individual. The entire society."

Mabye we should stop having Camaras on phones.

We should should bring back normal camaras that are not connected to the internet :P

Let me guess, the FBI finally decided to try '12345' to unlock the phone, and surprise, surprise, it worked.

Supernova1138:
Let me guess, the FBI finally decided to try '12345' to unlock the phone, and surprise, surprise, it worked.

Thats amazing I got the same combination on my luggage!!!

Oh lawd, it's probably that horrible Siri-Google-Clock hack isn't it. I joked about them using that, I wasn't serious.

Mcafee...you devil! Or, after Snowden's little tweet, they decided this was the only noble sounding way of backing out from their flimsy farce.

Maybe they should make phones/cases that have manual shutters over the camera ports, for those concerned about such things. :)

What kind of acrobatic sex are people having that a camera pointed straight up is going to catch any of it? I mean, it sounds like keeping big brother honest is as simple as NOT using a charging dock...
Still, customer privacy should be a top priority, yadda yadda yadda.

It'd be hilarious if this "third party" ended up being John McAfee.

And it'd be fucking inspirational if the attempt succeeded.

Does this feel rather transparent to anyone else? Like they're going "Oh, well we can do this without your help, may as well do this our way while you still can!"

If they really could've done it without Apple's help all this time then why try so hard to get them to help in the first place?

Now the big question: what are they going to test it on? Are they going to get, say, 10 iPhones in various states of lockdown and test this each time? Or are they gonna go full retard and just let the guy go for it on the actual device?

Lizzy Finnegan:

In a recent interview with The Escapist, cybersecurity expert and Libertarian presidential candidate John McAfee warned of the potential for foreign governments and hackers to exploit any security weakness in a cell phone's software, saying: "Someone could watch your daughter taking a shower if she takes her phone into the bathroom with her. Someone could watch you with your wife, or you with your husband, in the bedroom, if your phone is handy and nearby. We're talking about monumental invasion into the privacy of the family, of the individual. The entire society."

Why does everyone immediately go to sex with these kind of things? I feel like sex is not the most worrying thing, it's sort of this idea, where the government is watching you so tightly that you can accidentally become a criminal in your own home. Or expanding this idea of guilty by association, or any of the number of things one might do in private and just not want to talk about it. This idea of safety as a defense of this kind of thing is completely ludicrous. I don't blame the government for wanting to take control of a medium that is frequently being used by certain people to coordinate attacks on government interests, but what out there becomes more dangerous because they've spent so much time circumventing these restrictions. If a lock exists that can't be broken, maybe it would be beneficial for the government to lock their nonsense up there rather than making sure that they can get through everyone else's locks.

Honestly speaking I think we have gotten very arrogant in our belief that we can prevent crime rather than to punish it. The best way to prevent crime is to make it more beneficial to not be a criminal than to be one.

Honestly this behavior is embarrassing at best and terrifying at worst.

Samtemdo8:

Supernova1138:
Let me guess, the FBI finally decided to try '12345' to unlock the phone, and surprise, surprise, it worked.

Thats amazing I got the same combination on my luggage!!!

President Skroob, is that you?

OT: This is interesting. Is it possible that some people were right all along that the FBI could get into the phone any time they wanted and were simply using this case as an excuse to force Apple to create this alleged backdoor?

TrulyBritish:

OT: This is interesting. Is it possible that some people were right all along that the FBI could get into the phone any time they wanted and were simply using this case as an excuse to force Apple to create this alleged backdoor?

Of course they can. Any two-bit hacker could write a program that over-rides the security lockout on Apple's Iphones (with enough Iphones on hand to thoroughly test and vet the software). The FBI has plenty of those. This was and has always been about getting Apple to fall in line with their requests.

And let's not delude ourselves into thinking Apple is the noble party here either, protecting your privacy. This is about a business clinging to its proprietary coding, nothing more. They're only worried about competitors getting their hands on their own locking methods.

The entire situation has been a flexing contest, and anyone who was following has greasy man-sweat all over their faces to prove it.

Nice try FBI. Best take your ball and go home before public opinion turns against your stupidly transparent attempt to set a bad legal precedent any more than it already has. We are not as stupid as you think, and screaming 'terrorist' isn't going to let you get away with everything.

It was an interesting game of legal chicken, and I'm glad to see the FBI flinched before Apple. (Still hate apple, though; this is just so they can keep bragging about the encryption on their phones, not privacy.)

So it was basically shitty foreplay. They kept asking and asking for a way "in", kept getting refused, kept making dumb stupid excuses using pity and then they just gave up by going, "Fuck it, I'll wank myself off then", and boom goes the dynamite.

Sad and lonely nights for you, FBI?

If the FBI fears that the precedent set is more likely to weaken the All Writs Act than strengthen it, and they're just backing out to avoid loosing access to one of their toys (see the cases dropped rather than admit the existence/use of stingray devices)... Is there any way Apple can continue the challenge from their side assuming that they think its is worth the effort to avoid future attempts to compel them?

Aeshi:
If they really could've done it without Apple's help all this time then why try so hard to get them to help in the first place?

Set a precedent that could then be applied to other tech companies and eventually expanded into credit card companies, banks, and any general store, such as Wal-Mart, that sells supplies that could be used in the creation of illicit substances like cocaine.

Dyspayr:
If the FBI fears that the precedent set is more likely to weaken the All Writs Act than strengthen it, and they're just backing out to avoid loosing access to one of their toys (see the cases dropped rather than admit the existence/use of stingray devices)...

My thoughts exactly. They just don't want the courts to decide that what they're doing isn't okay. They'll likely do this again in the future with a less popular company.

Is there any way Apple can continue the challenge from their side assuming that they think its is worth the effort to avoid future attempts to compel them?

I believe that they can file a civil suit and if they win I think that victory could be considered as precedent for any future uses of this act for when they try to bully somebody else with it.

MarsAtlas:

Set a precedent that could then be applied to other tech companies and eventually expanded into credit card companies, banks, and any general store, such as Wal-Mart, that sells supplies that could be used in the creation of illicit substances like cocaine.

Can't all that shit be subpoenaed with a court order already?

This is just something I don't get. I really don't see what the FBI's doing that's so wrong to have gotten so many people's jimmy's rustled (beyond being 'the government' of course). The court order they got was specific to a single phone, required direct physical access to implement the changes they wanted, and Apple were under no obligation to hand the software over to the Feds, They could've just wiped the data from their internal servers once the FBI left with their shiny unlocked iPhone. Besides, phone records, emails etc. can all already be seized by law enforcement with appropriate legal paperwork. Why is the idea that the same principle (which there's no noticeable outcry against) being extended to/preserved for iPhones so offensive to people?

Megalodon:
Can't all that shit be subpoenaed with a court order already?

Yes, but what they want is a backdoor that they can access at any time. A backdoor which of course will leave the companies vulnerable. A literal backdoor to a bank vault, in some circumstances. The way they're doing things allows them to do it secretly (read: without accountability or supervision) and leaves businesses vulnerable. They're taking shortcuts chips away their accountability and puts businesses and all of the business' customers at risk. Its a hugely disproportionate use of government powers. We know for a fact that they're not going to stop with this one phone. They're moving this over to other crimes, like drug dealers. If you have the same bank as a drug dealer being investigated then your finances might get compromised. Your entire livelihood just the "cost of safety", though. The government is putting its citizens at more risk to criminals by doing this than the people they criminals they're trying to protect us from. Its like if some average joe thought that the best way to protect their family was to carry around a grenade with its pinned pulled. These safe measures put you at more risk than not having them at all.

The court order they got was specific to a single phone, required direct physical access to implement the changes they wanted, and Apple were under no obligation to hand the software over to the Feds,

No, the court order was to create a program. The order wasn't to crack one phone, it was an order to create a skeleton key to Apple phones. They could've simply asked just what you suggested but they didn't want just this one phone. Hell, Apple was participating with the FBI without any legal orders to do so, advising them of how they could unlock the phone and then the FBI botched Apple's instructions, and this is something the FBI admitted to just earlier this month.

So in other words, either they tried to demand Apple create an all-purpose backdoor to iOS because they were just too lazy to figure out a better solution, or they already knew there was another solution and were hoping to trick Apple into providing said backdoor anyway.

Neither of these possibilities surprises me.

MarsAtlas:

Megalodon:
Can't all that shit be subpoenaed with a court order already?

Yes, but what they want is a backdoor that they can access at any time. A backdoor which of course will leave the companies vulnerable. A literal backdoor to a bank vault, in some circumstances. The way they're doing things allows them to do it secretly (read: without accountability or supervision) and leaves businesses vulnerable. They're taking shortcuts chips away their accountability and puts businesses and all of the business' customers at risk. Its a hugely disproportionate use of government powers. We know for a fact that they're not going to stop with this one phone. They're moving this over to other crimes, like drug dealers. If you have the same bank as a drug dealer being investigated then your finances might get compromised. Your entire livelihood just the "cost of safety", though. The government is putting its citizens at more risk to criminals by doing this than the people they criminals they're trying to protect us from. Its like if some average joe thought that the best way to protect their family was to carry around a grenade with its pinned pulled. These safe measures put you at more risk than not having them at all.

The court order they got was specific to a single phone, required direct physical access to implement the changes they wanted, and Apple were under no obligation to hand the software over to the Feds,

No, the court order was to create a program. The order wasn't to crack one phone, it was an order to create a skeleton key to Apple phones. They could've simply asked just what you suggested but they didn't want just this one phone. Hell, Apple was participating with the FBI without any legal orders to do so, advising them of how they could unlock the phone and then the FBI botched Apple's instructions, and this is something the FBI admitted to just earlier this month.

What can I tell you, but you don't seem to know what the FBI is asking for. I've actually read a copy of the court order I found last month when all this kicked off (or if it's a fake, it's pretty convincing to a layman). They do not want a backdoor and it's speciufically not a 'skeleton key', they want to disable auto erase and passcode attempt delays to allow them to brute force the phone open. It's specific to the phone in question, even down to the serial number. There's no requirement in the order for the program to be handed over to the FBI. The entire process can take place at an Apple facility, provided the FBI can connect and perform its passocde recover analysis. I can't even see anything in the order to suggest it has to de done by any way other than direct, wired contact with the subject device. So I don't see what's the difference between this and subpoenaing someone's phone or credit card data. Both of which are allowed and aren't viewed as some travesty of civil liberties.

I don't even know where the banks come into this. This about being able to brute force a phone passcode without erasing it.

Well, I hope Apple's proud of the fact it stalled a terrorist investigation. Frankly, I'm disgusted with them.

chocolate pickles:
Well, I hope Apple's proud of the fact it stalled a terrorist investigation. Frankly, I'm disgusted with them.

Tell me.
What information do you think the FBI could possibly glean from this phone?

The phone is owned by San Bernardino county, as it was Farook's work phone. If any viable information were to be found on this phone, it would amount to levels of incompetence that should be criminal that someone would leave that kind of information on a government-owned device. At best, they'll get a contact list of people who aren't involved, a bunch of work e-mails, and Farook's high scores on Flappy Bird.

But, as I've heard many times over, "There are no rules when terrorism is involved."

 

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