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The FBI still hasn't unlocked Pensacola shooter's iPhones

iPhone charging port
iPhone charging port (Image credit: Joseph Keller/iMore)

What you need to know

  • The FBI says that it still cannot access the iPhone belonging to the Pensacola shooter.
  • This was revealed at a House Judiciary Committee.
  • The FBI says it is still engaged with Apple to try and get access to the phones.

The FBI is still unable to access the iPhones belonging to the Pensacola shooter, despite their best efforts and overtures to Apple.

As reported by Bloomberg: FBI Director Christopher Wray told a House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, February 5. According to the report:

*-- The FBI has reconstructed an iPhone belonging to the shooter behind the December Naval Air Station attack in Pensacola, Florida, but still can't access the encrypted data on the device, Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday.

The disclosure came at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in response to questions from Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida. Wray said the FBI is "currently engaged with Apple hoping to see if we can get better help from them so we can get access to that phone." About a month ago, the U.S. government asked Apple for help unlocking a pair of iPhones belonging to the shooter. * U.S. Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump have also demanded more help from Apple in the case. The Cupertino, California-based company has said it gave the FBI cloud data related to the iPhones, but has insisted that it won't build a backdoor around encryption to access information on its devices.

Whilst it won't help the investigation, this is comforting news for privacy and encryption. The FBI's feud with Apple over the Pensacola shooter's iPhone has been extensively covered both here and in the wider media. The moral of the story seems to be that Apple can't assist the FBI, it won't assist the FBI, and it really shouldn't assist the FBI. At least not in the way the FBI is asking, by creating a back door to iOS encryption. Apple has already turned over gigabytes of data relating to the case that it does have access to.

This revelation does, however, cast doubt on previous reports that the iPhones in question, an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 7, can be unlocked by existing third-party methods, and that the FBI doesn't actually need Apple's assistance in gaining access.

Stephen Warwick
Stephen Warwick

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.

4 Comments
  • There is nothing comforting over apple doing this. There could be very important information with regards to people's saftey. Uck Fapple. I can't wait to get my new NON APPLE phone, watch and I already moved on from ipad.
  • I doubt the manufacturer of whatever phone you buy will want to unlock it either, as it creates a backdoor which will be abused
  • Either the FBI is lying or the bad guys have caught on to Celebrite’s method and are using alpha-numeric passcodes now.
  • Has there been any proof that Celebrite's method works?