iPhone charging portSource: 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.

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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.

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