FBI Wants to Unlock Another iPhone After Minnesota Stabbings – Doesn’t Know How as It Failed to Buy Rights of Earlier Hack

Rafia Shaikh
Posted Oct 7, 2016
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The FBI had assured the public that their demands of unlocking an iPhone wouldn’t be a repeat scenario. Eight months, and the agency needs to crack into another dead terrorist’s iPhone. Hmm, that didn’t take too long.

The FBI wants to hack into another encrypted iPhone

A report on Wired from the FBI press conference after a mass stabbing says that the agency is in possession of another locked iPhone that belongs to now dead assailant Dahir Adan.

At a press conference in St. Cloud, Minnesota today, FBI special agent Rich Thorton said that the FBI has obtained the iPhone of Dahir Adan, who stabbed 10 people in a Minnesota mall before a police officer shot and killed him. (The fundamentalist militant organization ISIS claimed credit for the attack via social media.) As in Farook’s case, the attacker’s phone is locked with a passcode. And Thorton said the FBI is still trying to figure out how to gain access to the phone’s contents.

Special agent Thorton told the conference that it would be handy to unlock the phone, but the FBI can’t. He explained that the search for a solution is going on. Yet again. “We are in the process of assessing our legal and technical options to gain access to this device and the data it may contain,” Thorton said.

Earlier in the year, the FBI paid over a million dollars (more than its director James Comey’s 7 years salary) to white-hat hackers who unlocked the iPhone 5c for the agency. It isn’t surprising that the method doesn’t work on this latest case, because the model and operating system version play a major role if the hacking method works. Even if the method does work with the current case, the agency admitted not buying the rights to crack and has no technical information. (What, seriously?) Thorton didn’t share the details of the iPhone model Adan owned or the iOS version the device is running.

The bureau made a lot of fuss when it pushed Apple into creating a backdoor in iOS, the company’s mobile operating system. The Cupertino tech giant made it clear that it would keep user privacy and data security before FBI’s incessant demands. While FBI’s James Comey had promised that the San Bernardino iPhone case was a one-off request, security critics had warned that the agency’s intrusive demands would never end at one hack.

With no support from public or Apple, the FBI must be debating on how it would take the world’s biggest tech company back to the court, and then justify not retaining a hacking method that it unnecessarily paid over $1.2 million for.

– Earlier: the bureau arrests another NSA contractor for stealing top secret code, developed to hack into foreign government networks

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