The legal battle between Apple and the FBI has been an ongoing saga that has not only caught the attention of the tech press, but also the general public. Today we’ve learned that Apple won’t fight the FBI to gain insight into the tool used to unlock the iPhone 5c at the center of brouhaha. For starters, the tool only works on a “narrow sliver” of devices according to Comey; it’s limited to just the iPhone 5c.
In addition, while speaking to reporters today on a briefing call, Apple lawyers indicated that any tool the the FBI has access to would have a “short shelf life.” Apple engineers will undoubtedly further increase security going forward in the never-ending quest to not only stay ahead of hackers, but also government agencies that wish to access data by any means necessary. We’ve already seen Apple’s fruits in this quest via the use of encryption at the OS level, Touch ID and the Secure Enclave on the iPhone 5s and newer.
The FBI initially wanted Apple to acquiesce and provide assistance with unlocking an iPhone 5c that belonged to on of the San Bernardino terrorists. The FBI intended to take the company to court to comply, but at the last minute, withdrew its request, explaining that it had discovered a method to unlock the device without Apple’s help.
Since that time, it’s been speculated that the FBI enlisted the help of Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Sun Corporation, to do its dirty work. Cellebrite’s UFED Touch device is capable of extracting data from an iPhone at a cost of several thousand dollars each — a hefty sum to pay just to recover data on a single phone. Given the fact that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies across the country have hundreds of iPhones that they would like to unlock, it’s easy to see why the U.S. Government looked to have a precedent set by having Apple assist in the process — i.e., the easy way out.
Understandably, the FBI seems reluctant to share its unlocking process with Apple as it doesn’t want to hamper any chance that it has break into devices when the need arises. "We tell Apple, then they're going to fix it, then we're back where we started from," said FBI Director James Comey earlier this week. "We may end up there, we just haven't decided yet."
While the fight between the FBI and Apple appears to be dying down in the San Bernardino case, things are starting to heat up again in a Brooklyn drug trafficking case that has already stymied the FBI once. Today, the U.S. Department of Justice made it clear that it will forge ahead in its efforts to force Apple to unlock the iPhone 5s linked to the case.