Judge orders Apple to help government access San Bernardino shooter's iPhone

A federal judge has ordered Apple to provide assistance in accessing an iPhone used by one of the shooters involved in the San Bernardino attacks late last year. As reported by NBC News, Apple has been ordered to provide "reasonable technical assistance" in accessing the iPhone 5c in question:

The judge ruled Tuesday that the Cupertino-based company had to provide "reasonable technical assistance" to the government in recovering data from the iPhone 5c, including bypassing the auto-erase function and allowing investigators to submit an unlimited number of passwords in their attempts to unlock the phone.

The order comes after prosecutors argued in a 40-page filing that Apple has "exclusive technical means" to help the government secure critical information from the gunman's iPhone. However, Apple has been clear in the past that it has no way to access data on an iPhone secured with a passcode and running iOS 8 or later, so it's unlikely that the tech giant will be able to comply with the order.

Apple has been a firm supporter of encryption, leading the company to butt heads with governments over backdoor access to devices — a topic about which CEO Tim Cook has been quite outspoken.

Source: NBC News

Dan Thorp-Lancaster
41 Comments
  • If Apple helps the government Brute Force the iPhone, what's to prevent them from doing the same for all Americans? I don't like it...
  • Isn't going to happen they are Google. Sent from the iMore App
  • The courts. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • By "them" I mean the courts. If Apple helps the government, what's to prevent the courts from doing this a second, third, fourth time. Eventually they will ask Apple to give them access to every Americans iPhone.
  • Your tinfoil hat should stop them getting in.
  • Yeah apple will. So what are you going to do? Stop purchasing iPhone? Sent from the iMore App
  • yeah, and what's to stop courts from just warranting cops to arrest any American they wish, guilty or not, suspect or not? from arresting you or your whole family just because it's Tuesday and they wish to? Grow up. It's not because you've seen one case of abuse or fu**up here and there that you should dismiss the whole foundation of your system. Last time I checked, your country was still the Land of the Free, wasnt it? And it's not like the NSA doesnt already know everything about you. Im wondering how you'd react if you were the victim, or if it werent Apple that was asked.
  • What he said! Sent from the iMore App
  • yea, so let's have a freaky, paranoid and immature moment. Geez, get back on your meds!
  • For everyone ridiculing me, Rene thinks this is bad too:
    http://www.imore.com/apple-fbi-your-privacy-under-siege
  • ******* Government. Sent from the iMore App
  • By the time you Apple gets information it is randomized, it doesn't have your name or device info just numbers. They aren't Google who has as all kind of access to your info, a lot people volunteered to him. Things Apple don't ask or want to know. They don't have access or ability to have do what is being asked. Sent from the iMore App
  • Interesting how the report states that the government says that Apple *can* do this though. They even mention a "specialized software package" that Apple supposedly has. Either that's inaccurate or Apple has been lying all this time about not being able to break in. I'm thinking it's more likely the judge doesn't know what he or she is talking about, but it will be interesting to find out how this goes.
  • "... including bypassing the auto-erase function and allowing investigators to submit an unlimited number of passwords in their attempts to unlock the phone." Seems to me Apple can't just use a tool and get a password, but they can disable auto-erase to make Brute Force possible. (Normally all data is erased after 10 wrong guesses when the setting is turned on)
  • Good question- can Apple already bypass the "Erase all data after 10 failed attempts", or is the judge just making it up; a theoretical work-around? I suppose the answer will come when the phone is breached or erased.
  • They way this article explains it, the FBI is ordering that they CREATE a way around the 10 fails, which Cook explains doesn't exist.
    www.wired.com
    http://www.wired.com/2016/02/tim-cook-apple-will-fight-courts-anti-encry... Sent from the iMore App
  • If you seriously belive that Apple doesn’t have access to loads of info on you, you’re living in cloud cuckoo land.
    They not only have their own database and algorithms, (how do you think ‘Genius’ works), they glean info from your type of purchase, time of purchase, place of purchase, gender, age, and anything else you tell them when you sign up.
    in ADDITION, they will buy in data from other companies, (maybe even your evil Google), and they also have a lot of other holding/phantom companies both big and small that do the same. Get a grip man!
  • It's not difficult for Apple to know your purchases, this has nothing to do with them knowing what your text messages or your telephone conversations. Don't mix apples with oranges.
  • Exactly what Dark_Huntress said.
  • I'm siding with Apple, there are other ways to get access to raw data on the device. It's not easy but there are ways but law enforcement always want the easy way. Decrypting the code is not easy but if you're smart and patience, it can be done.
  • What a moronic comment. You speak about crime investigations like time isnt one of the most crucial variables. Sure, let's give the cops 5 years and a supercomputer so no court can arbitrarily read the kinky messages and the meatloaf receipes you send to whatever partner you have. I can only wish criminal **** doesnt happen to you or your loved ones so you dont have to face the absolute reasoning you're advocating. Let the cops tell you that it's gonna take them years to make any progress. Believe it or not, there are special cases in life that require special solutions. And believe it or not, you can do your best to wrap them in a reasonable, legal framework so that basic liberties are preserved. It's funny how US people do not seem to care about due process when it involves non-Americans.
  • M
    M Sent from the iMore App
  • It would be possible to put the iPhone into DFU mode and overwrite the firmware with a version that disables both of these security measures. Which would allow the FBI to brute-force the phone without any delays or worries about the iPhone erasing all data. The only catch is FBI need right a dummy Apple authentication code into the firmware that could take time but l'm sure smart people of the America can do that in less than 5days not 5 years.
    If I'm a moron , you probably don't know anything about hacking or code decrypting method. Educated yourself before commenting.
  • This will go away soon in that if the phone was a more modern one, it would have fingerprint access. Once all the phones are on fingerprint access, then it's a difficult but completely do-able process to open the phone as long as you have a body (or body parts). If this was an iPhone 5s instead of a 5c, they would have been in months ago.
  • Thats only if the user decides to use a finger print, you dont have to set one up Sent from the iMore App
  • It requires to input the passcode after so many inccorrect fingerprint attempts, after a 48 hour period if Touch ID is not used to unlock the phone, or if the phone is reset or battery dies. So there's still a very good chance they wouldn't be.
  • Very true, but if they have the dead suspect's finger, they could use it to open the phone within the 48 hours. Assuming that's within the law enforcement's legal ability. Maybe they needed a court order to access the phone at all, like that guy in NJ that was forced to give his fingerprint - IDK if that was within 48 hours; unlikely.
  • Using a dead finger doesn't work
  • Oh yeah? I didn't know that! Sent from the iMore App
  • I think in cases such as this one I think Apple should be happy to help after all this guy killed 14 innocent people. Sent from the iMore App
  • You would think, but no. Tim Cook decided to not follow the court order and side with protecting the data of a terrorist. And all the tin-foilers are applauding him for it. Sent from the iMore App
  • Where did you see that he decided not to follow the court order? I read the letter that states he strongly opposes building a back door in future iOS, and has/will comply with legitimate court orders, but I didn't catch that he was not going to follow this court order.
  • This article explains what I was missing-
    www.wired.com
    http://www.wired.com/2016/02/tim-cook-apple-will-fight-courts-anti-encry... Sent from the iMore App
  • Let's take Apple out of the equation for a minute and posit an analogy to an earlier time. Why an earlier time? Because all our laws come from an earlier time. The "IronBlock" Safe Compnay has made a virtually impenetrable safe and sells this to the general populace. Not only does this safe take years to drill into, but it has a self destruct feature to prevent tampering. A big bad guy, lets call him Hal Kibone, buys said safe and keeps all the information about his criminal operation in it. Hal is a bad dude, killed lots of people. He's not considered a terrorist though because terrorists didn't exist back then. The government kills Hal, but wants the information from his safe to root out the rest of his criminal organization. Hal obviously can't give them the combination anymore, so they then compel IronBlockSafeCo to crack into their own safe or be held in contempt. How is this IronBlockSafeCo's responsibility? They made a safe for people to put precious/private things in. Because Hal used said safe for something notorious should not leave them on the hook for breaking into it. IronBlockSafeCo has said repeatedly that they have no special tricks for breaking into their safes, but the government doesn't believe them. They say that if you don't have an IronBlockSuperSlimJim that you can use right away, we want you to develop one for our use, at your expense. Do you think people who buy IronBlock Safes would continue to trust them if they just created a key for government authorities to use? Do you think it's fair to claim that IronBlockSafeCo is in league with organized crime because they can't, and don't want to break into their own safes? It's quite a precedent, to hold a manufacturer of something sold to be secure, to also be able to un-secure it on demand. Lots of things can be used maliciously, but it's rare to see the courts go after the manufacturer. In some cases, there have even been laws drafted to protect the manufacturers from lawsuits. In the case of digital encryption, this is some new ground, and however it plays out will affect us all.
  • Those against it need to STFU. If you were in San Berdoo when that crap went down, or if you ever go through an attack and the bad guys had iPhones you'd be screaming from the mountaintops to break that encryption. So again, STFU. If the government ever gets interested in my phone records, apps or calendar, I'll save them the hassle of needing a warrant. All they need to do is ask. That way they can see that I'm not a bad guy and get to you quicker. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Even if Apple did have "exclusive technical means", how could the prosecutors possibly prove that Apple did have the "exclusive technical means"? What if Apple said: "We don't know what the bazinga these guys are talking about"?? How could the court possibly rule against that argument?
  • Morbid thought, why didn't the FBI use the dead terrorist's thumb to unlock the phone before they released the body to the family?? Sent from the iMore App
  • Morbid thought.. Why didn't the FBI use the thumb of the dead terrorist to unlock the phone BEFORE they released the body to the family? Sent from the iMore App
  • Because it was an iPhone 5c that doesn't have the fingerprint reader Sent from the iMore App
  • Well looks like my plan is null and void! lol!
  • Hey iMore Readers, there is a "We the People" petition supporting Apple's stance on privacy if you are interested in adding your signature: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/apple-privacy-petition