Judge Postpones Today’s Apple-FBI Hearing as DoJ Discovers New Way to Unlock iPhone
A court hearing was scheduled for today where Apple and the FBI were facing off over their battle of unlocking an iPhone 5c. At the last minute, the Department of Justice requested the court to postpone the hearing as the DoJ has discovered a possible way to unlock the iPhone without Apple’s help.
The DoJ will apparently use alternative methods to unlock the contents of a locked phone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter. In a document filed with the judge, DoJ requested:
On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is available method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. (“Apple”) set forthin the All Writs Act Order in this case.
After the government’s request to delay the hearing by two weeks, the judge agreed to vacate the hearing scheduled for March 22. The DoJ has been asked to provide a progress report by April 5.
The Court has reviewed the government’s Ex Parte Application for a Continuance. GOOD CAUSE HAVING BEEN SHOWN, the Court hereby ORDERS that the hearing in this matter set for March 22, 2016, at 1:00 p.m. is vacated, and the government is ORDERED to file a status report by April 5, 2016.
Apple wants to learn how the FBI will hack the iPhone
Engadget reports that Apple attorneys told the reporters during a conference call that the company “would insist on talking to the whoever is providing the exploit and wants to know about the vulnerability if the government insists on keeping the case alive.” Attorneys also noted that the government can no longer argue its original case that only Apple could get the FBI contents of the iPhone in question. However, if DoJ drops the case, Apple will have no legal way of asking for the information about the possible exploit.
At yesterday’s event, Apple’s Tim Cook talked about encryption and the company’s responsibility to its consumers, without going into the details of the case. Apple and Cook took a clear stand this past month when the FBI and the government asked the company to create a backdoor that could help the government getting into an iPhone, using an 18th century law. Apple and privacy activists have argued that the request is in violation of the company’s first amendment rights, and could have far-reaching repercussions.
The DoJ and the FBI have argued that the request for technical assistance only concerns a single case of breaking into an iPhone 5C, which was used by the terrorist in San Bernardino shootings.
It’s unknown if the FBI will disclose the vulnerability information to Apple. We will be learning more about this case on April 5 when the DoJ updates the court. In the meantime, Apple is under no obligation to help the FBI to unlock the iPhone as the motion is suspended.