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FBI-Apple case: Investigators hack San Bernardino attacker's iPhone without Apple's help

FBI drops case against Apple. News reports have said the FBI may have sought assistance from an Israeli forensics company

AFP  |  Los Angeles 

This undated combination of photos provided by the FBI, left, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows Tashfeen Malik, left, and Syed Farook. The husband and wife died in a fierce gunbattle with authorities several hours after their com
This undated combination of photos provided by the FBI, left, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows Tashfeen Malik, left, and Syed Farook. Photo: PTI

The has unlocked the used by one of the attackers, officials said, ending a heated legal standoff with that had pitted US authorities against Silicon Valley. Apple, backed by a broad coalition of technology giants like Google and Facebook, was fiercely opposed to assisting the US government in unlocking the on grounds it would have wide-reaching implications on digital security and privacy. A key court hearing scheduled earlier this month to hear arguments from both sides in the sensitive case was abruptly cancelled after the said it no longer needed Apple's help and had found an outside party to unlock the phone. "Our decision to conclude the litigation was based solely on the fact that, with the recent assistance of a third party, we are now able to unlock that without compromising any information on the phone," US attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement yesterday. "We sought an order compelling to help unlock the phone to fulfil a solemn commitment to the victims of the shooting -- that we will not rest until we have fully pursued every investigative lead related to the vicious attack." It was unclear who helped the access the phone and what was stored on the device.

But news reports have said the may have sought assistance from an Israeli forensics company. In a statement, said the case should never have been brought before the courts and that the company would continue to increase the security of its products. "believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy," it said. "Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk." In a court filing asking that the case be dismissed, federal prosecutors said the US government had "successfully accessed the data stored on (Syed) Farook's and therefore no longer requires assistance from Inc." Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California on December 2 before dying in a firefight with police. Two other phones linked to the pair were found destroyed after the attack. Tech companies, security experts and civil rights advocates had vowed to fight the government all the way to the Supreme Court, saying the case was not about a single phone and could set a precedent to compel companies to build backdoors into their products. Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, a non-profit that supports Apple, said Monday's announcement was clear proof the government had an alternative motive in the case.

First Published: Tue, March 29 2016. 09:07 IST
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