Apple was scheduled to head into court for the first major hearing in its battle with the FBI on Tuesday, March 22nd, But The United States Justice Department has unexpectedly asked the court overseeing its ongoing iPhone unlocking battle with Apple to postpone the hearing as they’ve discovered a method to possibly unlock the iPhone without needing Apple’s help.
For months, the DOJ has insisted they needed Apple’s help to break into the handset, as part of an ongoing terrorism investigation. Apple has steadfastly resisted, citing dangerous precedent, but the government may not need its help after all.
“On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking [terrorist Syed] Farook’s iPhone”, federal prosecutors said in a filing Monday afternoon. “Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. (“Apple”) set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case”.
“Accordingly, to provide time for testing the method, the government hereby requests that the hearing set for March 22, 2016 be vacated”, government lawyers wrote.
The government has asked that the hearing be postponed for two weeks, instead taking place on Tuesday, April 5. The additional time will be used to determine whether or not the unspecified method can be used to break into the iPhone 5c in question. Sheri Pym, the judge presiding over the case, has not yet given word on whether or not the government’s request will be granted.
The judge has agreed to vacate the hearing which was scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, and has asked DOJ to provide an update by April 5. In the meantime, the motion that ordered Apple to help FBI to unlock the iPhone has been suspended. So Apple is under no obligation to help FBI to unlock the iPhone at the moment.
Meanwhile, Engadget reports Apple attorneys held a press conference regarding the latest development, and have said that they will insist FBI handover details of the exploit that is used to unlock the iPhone. But if the government drops the lawsuit against Apple, then it won’t be obliged to provide the details.
Apple is fighting a drawn-out battle with the FBI over encryption. Apple has refused to make a software that disables an “auto-erase” feature that permanently deletes the data inside after 10 failed password attempts and eliminate the delay that locks you out of the iPhone if the wrong passcode is entered. It also wants Apple to implement a method that allows FBI to enter the passcode electronically, so it can unlock the terrorist’s iPhone by “brute-force”, trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.
Earlier Today, Tim Cook reiterated the company’s stand to help users to protect their data and protect their privacy, and the company’s intent to fight the case. He pledged that the Apple would not “shirk from this responsibility” to protect its users, just before unveiling the new 4-inch iPhone SE, 9.7-inch iPad Pro and new Apple Watch bands.
It will be interesting to find out who is helping the DOJ is unlocking the iPhone. We won’t be surprised if it is someone from the jailbreak community.