In a six week legal clash, the US government has now declared that it has “successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and no longer requires” assistance from Apple.
At this moment in time, the FBI has not released information on how the handset was accessed, although sources state that Apple is pushing hard to find out.
Apple’s lawyers have already requested that if this evidence is used in trial, then details of the technique must be made public. However, this information could still remain unknown as there is scope within US law for authorities to withhold the source of information to protect sensitive intelligence-gathering methodologies.
Can the US government now work out anyone’s iPhone passcode?
According to the BBC:
“The court order originally obtained by the FBI had instructed Apple to come up with a special version of its operating system that would have prevented Farook’s iPhone from deleting its data or imposing long lockout periods if too many incorrect passcode guesses were made.
However, the latest court filings do not say that someone else has now done this, but merely that some data stored on the device has been obtained.”
It is possible that alternative methods of getting data off the iPhone were used, including de-capping memory chips or bypassing passcode locks. Until a statement is released people are simply left to speculate.
What does this mean for the UK?
In order to pass the Investigatory Powers bill, home secretary Theresa May has said that technology firms don’t have to hand over encryption keys or build backdoors into their platforms.
However, the law still mentions equipment interference warrants that “could be used to force Apple and others to insert new code into a device in order to help the authorities extract data, in a similar manner to the FBI’s earlier order.”
Continuing US cases
It has also been reported that there are around another dozen undisclosed cases around the country where the US Justice Department is pursuing court orders to force Apple to help its investigators.
The highest profile of these was in Brooklyn, New York where the FBI requested access to an iPhone belonging to an individual who had already pleaded guilty for drug dealing. In this specific case the request to invoke the All Writs Act was rejected by the federal judge.
At the moment it is unclear how the FBI retrieved the information but what is clear is that the US government will continue to put pressure on Apple in the upcoming months and only time will tell if the tech company crumbles to demands.