FBI finds way into San Bernardino gunman’s iPhone without Apple’s help

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WASHINGTON — The FBI has discovered a mystery method to break into the San Bernardino gunman’s iPhone without Apple‘s help, ending the pending court case.

The government told a federal court Monday without any details that it accessed data on gunman Syed Farook’s iPhone and no longer requires Apple’s assistance. Farook and his wife died in a gun battle with police after killing 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December.

Apple did not immediately comment on the development.

On March 22, the FBI and Apple were supposed to face off in a courtroom for the first time over the debate whether Apple should have to deencrypt Farook’s iPhone. However, less than a day before the hearing was set in front of the Justice Department, the FBI requested the hearing be canceled after discovering a possible method to break into the phone without Apple’s help. A third-party had come forward to assist.

“On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking [Syed] Farook’s iPhone…If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc,” said the document requesting the cancellation of the hearing.

Federal investigators wanted to see what data is available on the iPhone, but it was permanently locked. They couldn’t try to guess the passcode, because if its self-destruct feature was turned on, it would erase its key after 10 incorrect passcode attempts.

The FBI had wanted Apple to create special software that would let it bypass the phone’s security protocols so it can try endless password combinations. But Apple has fought the court order, saying that removing the security protection in this case would create a “backdoor” that could potentially allow the government or hackers to break into similar iPhones, making them vulnerable.

A judge in February ruled Apple must comply with the government’s request.

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