Relentless, FBI May Have Found A Way To Unlock San Bernardino iPhone Without Apple Involvement

Tired of reading about the FBI and Apple trading blows over an encrypted iPhone yet?  Well relief may be in sight.  This evening, the FBI filed a request to delay Tuesday's court hearing on the matter, and now that request has been accepted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym.

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Why has the FBI suddenly changed course?  According to the brief, the FBI has not stopped working on trying to access the data on Syed Farook's government issued iPhone 5C.  They state that an "outside party" demonstrated a possible method for unlocking the phone on Sunday, March 20th, sparking this about face.  The FBI has previously stated that they have exhausted all other known options. This method will require testing to ensure it will not compromise the data on Farook's phone but, if successful, it means Apple won't be required to comply with the All Writs Act Order to move forward with the investigation and it's possible setting a dangerous legal precedent with the federal government can be avoided.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden recently called "bs" on the FBI's alleged inability to unlock the iPhone in question.

Little is known at this point who this "outside party" is or what their method entails. This opens another can of worms in some respects. Will the vulnerability be disclosed in full to Apple so it can be patched? Can this unlock be used on the other dozen-odd iPhones the DOJ would like cracked? What implications does this have for modern interpretations of the All Writs Act?

With respect to the last question there, the timing
may feel a touch suspicious.  Hopefully the FBI will provide transparency into how these events transpired to quell conspiracy theorists, assuming that can be helped. After all, many including Apple, claim the FBI has chosen this phone as a golden opportunity to establish a precedent of coercing corporations to undermine the privacy of their customers. Faced with backlash from across the tech sector, the FBI may be using this outside party's method as a scapegoat to not risk losing this extraordinarily controversial case.  Standing down means interpretations of the All Writs Act remain in a grey legal area, at least until another case arises.

For now the pressure may be off Apple but this war for public security and privacy is far from over.

Image credit: Flickr edans and The Guardian

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