[Update] San Bernardino County Seemingly Blames FBI: Apple Points Finger At Government Worker For Botching Access To Terrorist's iCloud Account

Updated 2/20/2016 - 9:57PM:
If there weren't such tragic events leading up to the unprecedented court case involving Apple, the FBI and DOJ, the whole San Bernardino iPhone government access affair might look like a complete comedy of errors at this point. The San Bernardino gunman's locked iPhone could indeed reveal information as to whether or not they acted alone or were supported by others. And it could offer a wealth of information beyond that, that could possibly even save lives some day in the future. However, the slippery slope of legal precedent that will be set, if Apple ever does give in to the U.S. Magistrate Judge's court order to unlock the iPhone 5c that has caused such a stir, literally has the country divided on what the true right legal and moral course of action should be. This iPhone has caused such a commotion that somewhat comical offers and color commentary from eccentric "Cybersecurity Legend" John McAfee and the Republican candidate for president with no shortage of opinion, Donald Trump, have weighed in on the affair.

To make matters worse, we now know that in the early hours of the investigation into the San Bernardino shooters, critical opportunities for evidence gathering were blown clear out the window, even though Apple fully cooperated with FBI officials to get into the gunman's Apple account. 

Apple iCloud

The iPhone 5c in question that was actually purchased by the San Bernardino Department of Health was, like many Apple devices, linked to an iCloud account belonging to the shooter. Unfortunately, the gunman, Syed Farook either intentionally or unintentionally didn't have the phone set to synch to iCloud for at least 6 weeks before the shooting on December 2, 2015. However, Apple offered to hand over Syed Farook's iCloud data, if the FBI could force a synch of the iPhone to iCloud. All they had to do was power up the device, connect it to a known WiFi network (presumably the San Bernardino Dept. of Health offices) and since the password was already in the device, an auto-backup could be forced giving Apple and the FBI access to the data via iCloud. 

Unfortunately, according to federal officials, a San Bernardino county IT worker performed a password reset on the Apple account just hours into the investigation and thus blew any opportunity for forcing an auto-backup of the iPhone's existing data to iCloud.

And so here we are today. With no opportunity to extract the data from iCloud, the DOJ and FBI have gone in guns blazing trying to force Apple into re-writing the iPhone's firmware which will allow brute force decryption of this device, essentially creating the very first iPhone "skeleton key" and thus inherently weakening the security and privacy of millions of iPhones in the process--not to mention setting legal precedent with possibly much farther-reaching ramifications. 

The old saying "what a federal case" seems to aptly fit.

Update 2/20/2016 - 9:57PM: In what now appears to be a serious case of finger-pointing, the Twitter account for San Bernardino County (currently unverified but appears legit) claims they were "working cooperatively with the FBI" when the gunman's iCloud password was reset, dashing all hope of backing-up that fateful iPhone 5c to Apple's cloud storage platform. 

So the FBI is apparently now trying to pin the situation on a lowly county IT worker, adding insult to injury, rather than admitting the blunder that potentially necessitated them trying to strong-arm Apple into breaking the iPhone's password failed attempt lockout mechanism.

Update 2/20/2016 - 10:35PM: It has been confirmed by the Washington Post that the FBI specifically instructed San Bernardino County to reset the iCloud password.  “The county and the FBI were working together cooperatively to obtain data, and at the point when it became clear the only way to accomplish the task at hand was to reset the iCloud password, the FBI asked the county to do so, and the county complied,” David Wert, a spokesman for San Bernardino County, said in an email.

Via:  ABC, various
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