FBI Failed to Contact Apple During Critical Window to Unlock Texas Shooter’s iPhone
Despite crying over lack of support coming from the tech industry, the Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to make the same mistake – not bringing the relevant company onboard, on time. After the statement of the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation of the Texas church shooting, Christopher Combs, who had said that the agency isn’t able to get into the terrorist’s phone, new information suggests it may be the agency’s fault.
FBI may have made a critical mistake in unlocking Texas shooter’s iPhone
Timing is crucial when it comes unlocking an iPhone and security experts have continued to stress that. However, the FBI failed to contact Apple to get their help in the first 48 hours. The timing is specifically important in cases where the user has opted for fingerprints to lock their iPhone. Apple could have used the shooter’s finger to unlock the device, as long as the device wasn’t powered off since then it requires the passcode.
However, Reuter’s sources suggest that the Bureau didn’t ask Apple for help for over 48 hours rendering Touch ID useless. The iPhone requires a passcode if a user hasn’t unlocked it in two days. While the FBI keeps criticizing Apple and other technology companies and demands backdoors in their products, the Bureau also continues to repeat the same mistakes when it comes to unlocking an iPhone.
“The delay may prove important. If Kelley had used a fingerprint to lock his iPhone, Apple could have told officials they could use the dead man’s finger to unlock his device, so long as it had not been powered off and restarted.” Reuters
In his statement that placed the blame on the tech company and freed the agency – that is supposed to “investigate” the case – of any responsibility, agent Combs said that he isn’t going to share what phone the Texas shooter had used because he didn’t want every bad guy to know what phone to use when escaping law enforcement. It was later confirmed by The Washington Post that the device in question was indeed an iPhone.
The FBI could also ask Apple to hand over data that is stored in the cloud, but it is unclear if the Bureau has sent the Cupertino iPhone maker any court order.
Clearly, law enforcement needs to work on both its capabilities to unlock a phone it needs to get into (and not every innocent citizen’s) and to learn to work with companies that can actually help without creating a public spectacle out of every crime. The Texas massacre is yet another reminder of how the intelligence community demands everything on a platter at the risk of user security and privacy.