The Feds’ iPhone Crack Doesn’t Mean The FBI-Apple Battle Is Over
Even though the FBI was able to find a way to hack into San Bernardino killer Syed Farook’s locked iPhone 5c, don’t expect to see the war of words and technology between the Bureau and Apple to end anytime soon.
The feds won’t say how they managed to get around iOS security protocols on Farook’s iPhone, although it’s been reported that a "third party" was instrumental in figuring out the hack. Apple designed the phone to wipe all data if its screen is locked and there are too many incorrect attempts to enter a password. Somehow, though, the FBI was able to get past the screen lock safeguard and retrieve the data they were seeking related to the December 2015 San Bernardino killings, which claimed 14 lives plus those of Farook and his wife.
Once the hack was complete, the FBI dropped its legal battle trying to force Apple to unlock the phone. However, that doesn’t mean the fight is over. Far from it.
The FBI Wants To Play Well With Others
Five days after the FBI cracked the killer’s phone, it sent out a letter to all U.S. law enforcement agencies, which was obtained by the news agency Reuters. In the letter, the feds offer to help police agencies dealing with similar iPhone problems as long as “legal and policy constraints” are obeyed.
It didn’t take long for one local police department to request assistance. The Associated Press reports that the FBI will help Arkansas law enforcement officials unlock both an iPod and an iPhone belonging to teens charged with a 2015 double murder.
The FBI’s offer is expected to be accepted by other police agencies in the near future. Surprisingly, that may be very good news for Apple.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Now that the feds have the information they were seeking in the Farook case, you might think that the FBI has won the fight. But both Apple and security experts believe the Bureau’s ability to access locked iPhones will be short-lived, especially if it’s going to work with local law enforcement agencies.
Apple, of course, is feverishly working to plug the security hole that the FBI found, saying that unanticipated technological backdoors have a very small life cycle and promising that the method the FBI used won’t remain secret for very long. And when criminal cases based on information obtained from cracked iPhones begin coming to trial, the company may be the beneficiary of testimony in those trials.
Experts expect that defense attorneys will focus on how iPhone evidence was obtained, and they say that testimony will provide valuable information to help Apple’s search for a way to plug the iPhone security hole and prevent future hacks.
It probably doesn’t make sense to bet against Apple in the long run. The security measures that the FBI was able to bypass are considered so strong that defense contractors have reportedly offered up to a million dollars for details of how the hack was done, even if the backdoor doesn’t last for long.