San Bernardino shooter's iPhone Apple ID password was changed while in government custody

In an interesting turn of events, it has been revealed that the Apple ID password tied to the iPhone involved in the current tussle between Apple and the FBI was changed after it was in the custody of the U.S. government.

As reported by Buzzfeed News, Apple executives revealed that the company had been in touch with the government and working on a solution to accessing the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone since January. When testing one possible solution, the company discovered that the Apple ID password associated with the iPhone had been changed, making it more difficult to access the information the FBI is after:

The executives said the company had been in regular discussions with the government since early January, and that it proposed four different ways to recover the information the government is interested in without building a back door. One of those methods would have involved connecting the phone to a known wifi network.Apple sent engineers to try that method, the executives said, but the experts were unable to do it. It was then that they discovered that the Apple ID passcode associated with the phone had been changed.

Had the password not been changed, Apple says, a backup of the information the government is seeking would be accessible, eliminating the need for the court order that lies at the center of the current dispute.

The news follows a push by the U.S. Department of Justice to compel Apple's cooperation in assisting the FBI with creating a backdoor to the iPhone in question.

Update: According to another report out of TechCrunch, Apple executives have also stated that the tool the FBI is asking the company to create could potentially work as a blueprint for cracking into more devices in the future, even going so far as to render a key security feature of newer iPhones and iPads useless:

The executive also explicitly stated that what the FBI is asking for — for it to create a piece of software that allows a brute force password crack to be performed — would also work on newer iPhones with its Secure Enclave chip.

Apple also argued that cooperating with the FBI on this matter has the potential to open a pandora's box of requests from foreign governments — and aspect of the dispute that hasn't received much attention thus far.

Update 2: The San Bernardino Twitter account has chimed in to say that the county changed the password at the FBI's request.

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Dan Thorp-Lancaster