The FBI has officially unlocked the iPhone used by a terrorist during the December attack in San Bernardino after Apple consistently refused to help the FBI in decrypting the phone’s data, arguing that breaking into the phone would weaken security for all users.
Last week, the FBI asked to postpone the start of their trial less than 24 hours before it was set to begin when an unnamed third party claimed they could unlock the iPhone. Now, it appears that third party wasn’t bluffing, as the court just vacated the motion against Apple.
“The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on [the terrorist’s] iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple,” the status report from U.S. attorney Eileen Decker reads.
While this is the end of Apple’s current encryption battle, it probably isn’t the end of the story. The turnaround from the FBI is striking, since earlier testimony from FBI director James Comey showed that the FBI was unable to do what the unnamed third party has done in less than a week.
While the FBI said that it has unlocked the phone, it declined to reveal what kind of data was uncovered. With the terrorist killed in the aftermath of the attack, the data won’t be used in any cases against him. However, if the iPhone did include information of use in other cases, it may be used down the line.
In a statement, Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future — which organized protests against the FBI last month — said that the “FBI’s credibility just hit a new low.”
“They repeatedly lied to the court and the public in pursuit of a dangerous precedent that would have made all of us less safe,” Greer said in a statement. “Fortunately, Internet users mobilized quickly and powerfully to educate the public about the dangers of backdoors, and together we forced the government to back down.”
And Apple may not be done with the FBI yet, either. With increasing security on newer iPhones (the model unlocked by the FBI was an iPhone 5c), Apple and the FBI may be back in court soon to argue over whether Apple has to help unlock the devices.