The legal battle between Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has come to an end, as it turns out the FBI have accessed an iPhone 5c without Apple’s assistance after all.
The filing comes a week after the DOJ asked the court to postpone its hearing with Apple, claiming it had found a possible method for accessing the data stored on an iPhone 5c, which belonged to San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook.
According to a filing released today, the Department of Justice has officially withdrawn its legal action against Apple, which saw the DOJ trying to force Apple to create a specialized version of iOS to access the iPhone 5c. The reason for the withdrawal is that the FBI has accessed the shooter’s iPhone — without the need of Apple’s assistance.
Applicant United States of America, by and through its counsel of record, the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, hereby files this status report called for by the Court’s order issued on March 21, 2016.
The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court’s Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016.
Accordingly, the government hereby requests that the Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016 be vacated.
It later came out that the FBI had enlisted the help of Israeli mobile software developer Cellebrite, a company that offers “mobile forensic solutions” to help law enforcement agencies crack the encryption on smartphones to access data. The government has not disclosed the method used to obtain the information on the iPhone, stating only that it has been retrieved.
The withdrawal of the case brings the heated battle between Apple and the U.S. government to a close. The two have been fighting a very public debate over encryption and personal privacy, which kicked off when a court ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock the iPhone 5c in question.
Apple has issued a statement regarding the DOJ’s request:
“From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred,” the statement reads.
Apple went on to say that it will help law enforcement agencies with their investigations to the extent that it can, but will also continue to ratchet up its security measures. “We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated.”
Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy,” the statement went on. “Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk. This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy. Apple remains committed to participating in that discussion.”
As to the method that the FBI used to access the iPhone, that’s unknown at this time. What is also unknown: What the FBI and DOJ discovered on the iPhone, if anything.