FBI Asks Apple to Help Unlock iPhones Used by Gunman in Florida Shooting

Jan 7, 2020
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The FBI has asked Apple to help unlock two iPhones used by a gunman responsible for a mass shooting in Florida. Investigators have sent a letter to Apple’s general counsel to seek help in unlocking the password-protected iPhones.

The letter was sent on Monday to Apple’s General Counsel, by FBI General Counsel Dana Boente. It stated that the FBI has court permission to search the contents of both iPhones but they are password protected. FBI has also reached out to other federal agencies and experts from around the world, including third-party vendors who claim to have solutions to unlocking iPhones. Those attempts seem to have been unsuccessful which is why the FBI has reached out to Apple for support. One of the iPhones was also damaged due to a gun shot, which has made the investigation even more difficult.

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Apple shared the following statement with NBC regarding this issue:

“We have the greatest respect for law enforcement and have always worked cooperatively to help in their investigations," Apple said in a statement. "When the FBI requested information from us relating to this case a month ago, we gave them all of the data in our possession  and we will continue to support them with the data we have available.”

FBI says that they are ready to work with Apple to implement the court’s order, however, it is clear that Apple will be able to share only a certain amount of data. Specifically, this would be unencrypted iCloud data stored in Apple’s servers.

This is not the first time that the FBI has reached out to Apple for iPhone unlock support. This situation is similar to the iPhone unlock issue with the San Bernardino attacker, when the Justice Department took Apple to court, but was unsuccessful in getting the company to create a backdoor. The FBI went on to work with an undisclosed vendor to unlock the iPhone 5c for around $1.2 million. As the iPhone 5c was an older iPhone without Touch ID and Secure Enclave, it might have been somewhat easier to unlock, but with newer iPhones, it is more difficult than ever for hackers to get into locked devices.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether FBI will try to take Apple to court again to get a backdoor created for iOS.

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