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FBI postpones court date with Apple to test iPhone hack

The FBI delays a court showdown with Apple to test a hack into the San Bernardino gunman's iPhone – with serious implications for iPhone security

The FBI has postponed its court showdown with Apple – in which it planned to force the company to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook – to test an alternative way in.

The court case arose after Apple refused to obey a court ruling, to help the FBI bypass the auto-erase function on the iPhone 5C running iOS9, to find the passcode and access data stored on the device.

Judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple to create a custom firmware file to enable the FBI to bypass or disable the auto-erase function and brute force crack the phone’s passcode to access and decrypt data stored on the device.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in a statement that the US government had demanded Apple take an "unprecedented step” – which threatened the security of Apple’s customers.

Apple has since garnered the support of several other big US technology firms, including Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

According to prosecutors, "an outside party" has demonstrated a possible way of unlocking the iPhone without Apple's help.

"Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook's iPhone," a court filing said.

US Department of Justice spokeswoman Melanie Newman said in a statement that the government was "cautiously optimistic" that the method will work, reports the BBC.

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Tim Cook calls for public debate

It is unknown what the method might be or who has come forward with the offer, but commentators have speculated that it may be a security firm.

If the method is successful, the court case against Apple will no longer be necessary – but it will raise concerns that, if the FBI can find a way in, so can cyber criminals.

Commentators have voiced hopes that the FBI and the “outside party” will share their intelligence with Apple – so, if there is a vulnerability that can be exploited, Apple can fix it.

The court gave the FBI two weeks until 5 April to test out the unspecified way into the iPhone.

Tim Cook used Apple’s launch event for the iPhone SE and iPad Pro just ahead of the scheduled court hearing to comment on the case.

“We need to decide as a nation how much power the government should have over our data and our privacy,” he said.

Cook said Apple never expected to be “at odds” with the US government, but said the company believed it has a responsibility to help customers protect their data and privacy.

Read more on Privacy and data protection

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Did anyone really think the Feds wouldn't eventually break into the phone? Meanwhile, Apples odd moral stance may be in for a big kick right to their bottom line.
Tim Cook is so disingenuous acting like Apple is more powerful and is to be somehow trusted more than our own Law Enforcement Agencies!

When Apple itself has proven how diabolical they are in competition with foreign companies. They don't pay any taxes in so many markets, utilizing Zero Tax Stateless Tax Scams. How is it legal in any country or domain to secretly shift earnings from one to another in the first place?

When we allow Corporations like Apple, who constantly are allowed to iBloviate Fantasies of how secure they are!

Fact is this; There is no such thing as a completely "Impenetrable Fortress" without some way of fixing a mistake. The best are multilayered.... but even the best Security can only ever obtain a 85 to 90% level of Trust today!

In other words they can all be attacked and hacked by somebody. What this case is really about..... is do we citizens/users really want criminals to have better security, than what we allow Law Enforcement to be able to beat? Or do we really want to fund totally unnecessary court battles and law enforcement expenses fighting with Profiteering Corporations fighting law enforcement as if they were the criminals!!!