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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