The Department of Justice is backing out of its case against Apple: Federal prosecutors told a judge in a new court filing Monday that they have successfully accessed data on an iPhone belonging to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. The department “no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc.,” the court filing states.
This latest twist likely puts an abrupt end to a tense stand-off between federal investigators and Apple that began when the FBI tried to access information on Farook’s iPhone. Apple assisted investigators with access to the iCloud backups of the iPhone, but refused to develop special software to disable the iPhone’s encryption software.
The Department of Justice went to court and was able to obtain a court order against Apple, but the tech giant appealed. A court hearing in the case was scheduled for last Tuesday. However, the Department of Justice surprised everyone when it cancelled the hearing at the last minute, declaring that it had been approached by an unnamed third party that may have found a way to access the phone without Apple’s help.
Now, it looks like that hack actually worked — which is good news and bad news for Apple. On the one hand, the company won’t have to deal with a legal precedent that could have forced it to disable its encryption in many future legal cases as well. On the other hand, it’s likely that the federal government has a way to bypass a key aspect of Apple’s iPhone security, raising the possibility that others can hack the device as well.