U.S. may have found way to crack terrorist’s iPhone without Apple’s help

U.S. prosecutors have postponed their showdown with Apple by two weeks to try a “third party” method for unlocking the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, Reuters reports. A federal judge granted the Department of Justice’s request to stall the hearing until April 5 while the FBI tries the newly discovered method to unlock the phone, which is at the center of a case which has seen Apple refusing to cooperate with the FBI’s request to develop new software for disabling the phone’s password security features. Until Monday, the government insisted it had no other way to access the iPhone, and lawyers supporting Apple said the timing of the request for delay suggests the DOJ feared it would lose a legal battle based on the assertion that it had tried every other way to get into the phone. “From a purely technical perspective, one of the most fragile parts of the government’s case is the claim that Apple’s help is required to unlock the phone,” said Matt Blaze, a professor and computer security expert at the University of Pennsylvania. “Many in the technical community have been skeptical that this is true, especially given the government’s considerable resources.” The government’s use of the All Writs Act had also recently come into doubt after a judge ruled the AWA couldn’t be used to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone in a similar case.
The DOJ released a statement claiming that it has been pursuing alternatives to cracking the iPhone’s security — even as litigation against Apple proceeded — and is “cautiously optimistic” the method obtained from a non-governmental third party will work. An Apple executive said the company knew nothing about the DOJ’s new method for gaining access to the phone, and that the government’s admission that it had been constantly pursuing other options was in sharp contrast to the insistent arguments officials had been making against Apple in court. Apple expressed a hope that officials would share information on previously undiscovered vulnerabilities used to access the phone if the government’s method proved successful, but the FBI would be under no obligation to do so if it drops its case against Apple.

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