The Justice Department dropped its case against Apple Monday after an “outside party” was reportedly used to crack the iPhone of Syed Farook.
According to the court filing, “The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc….”
The phone, which was encrypted with a four-digit passcode, was designed to automatically erase its contents after 10 failed passcode attempts. The government’s original order demanded Apple create an entirely new operating system with such security measures disabled, allowing the FBI to preserve the data while making unlimited passcode guesses.
Following the announcement, tech and legal experts began raising questions on whether the technique would be used on other iPhones.
Will the FBI share their new iOS exploit with the Manhattan DA’s office and other state/local agencies who have iPhones they want to unlock?
— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) March 28, 2016
Others such as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had previously questioned whether the FBI was being truthful when initially claiming there was no way to access the phone without Apple’s assistance.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 28, 2016
“The FBI says Apple has the ‘exclusive technical means… Respectfully, that’s bullshit,” Snowden said during a recent speech.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, citing the White House’s own Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, noted the immediate need for the federal government to inform Apple of the vulnerability as well.
“This new method of accessing the phone raises questions about the government’s apparent use of security vulnerabilities in iOS and whether it will inform Apple about these vulnerabilities,” the EFF wrote. “As a panel of experts hand-picked by the White House recognized, any decision to withhold a security vulnerability for intelligence or law enforcement purposes leaves ordinary users at risk from malicious third parties who also may use the vulnerability.”
Despite comments to the contrary from tech experts, the Department of Justice, according to CNN, claimed Monday that “the method only works” on Farook’s specific phone.