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FBI abandons the iPhone battle, but not for the reason you'd hope

The heated battle between Apple and the FBI has come to an end. You might remember that the FBI was trying to compel Apple to help it break into the iPhone recovered from San Bernardino shooter and alleged terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook.

For weeks, Apple has been refusing on the grounds that helping the FBI break into one iPhone would allow it to break into other iPhones in the future. This sparked a huge public debate about personal privacy, encryption and the limits of government access that still isn't resolved. However, the debate will have to take place at another time because the FBI has abandoned this particular case.

The reason the FBI has bowed out is because it managed to break through Apple's iPhone security without Apple's help. Speaking to the New York Times, an anonymous official said the FBI got help from an undisclosed third party who found a way into the iPhone.

The FBI hasn't said how the hack works, and it probably isn't going to tell. It has claimed, however, that the hack works for any iPhone 5c. Unless it's a fundamental hardware problem with the 5c, the hack should work on other iPhones as well.

Of course, not knowing what the hack is, Apple might have already fixed it in newer iPhone hardware or software updates without realizing it. Some conspiracy-minded people have suggested that the FBI knew it couldn't win and just said it succeeded so it could bow out gracefully.

What we do know is that legally there was no resolution to the case. That means the FBI is free to try again in another situation, and perhaps even with a different company in the crosshairs. Expect to be hearing about this same topic again soon.

If the case had gone all the way through the court system, what do you think the verdict would have been? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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