The Department of Justice has accessed the iphone of San Bernardino attacker Syed Rizwan Farook and therefore no longer needs Apple’s assistance to unblock the phone. In the San Bernardino attack, fourteen people were killed and 22 injured. The attackers died in a police shooting; their personal phones were destroyed, but Farook’s work phone survived. The FBI asked Apple’s assistance to create software to remove certain security features and unblock the iphone. Apple refused, and the FBI sought a court order. The federal district court for the Central District of California issued the order relying on the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. §1651 – authorizing courts to “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” Unlike routinely given subpoena orders, such orders are exceptional.
Apple opposed and a battle ensued with significant media coverage.
Cellebrite, an Israeli company specializing in retrieving data from locked mobile devices, offered assistance to the FBI. Through Cellebrite or elsewhere, the FBI must have accessed the information because on Monday March 28, 2018 the government filed a brief motion with the federal court for the Central District of California to vacate the order compelling Apple to assist the FBI in unlocking the iphone:
The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iphone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court’s order compelling Apple Inc. to assist Agents in search dated February 16, 2016. In the Matter of the Search of an Apple Iphone Seized During the Execution of a Search Warrant on a Black Lexus IS300, California License Plate #5KGD203
From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.”
For more information, Francesca Giannoni-Crystal.