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The FBI hacked an iPhone without Apple's help

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Photo: Getty.

The Justice Department withdrew its court order asking Apple to help it retrieve data from an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters on Monday. 

According to the DOJ, the reason it withdrew is because it was able to access the data on the iPhone without Apple’s help. 

Last week, DOJ asked to delay a hearing over the issue because the FBI said it had found a “third-party” which may have been able to get into shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone, meaning that Apple’s help would not be needed. Today’s developments indicate that the FBI was successful. 

DOJ said in a statement:

The FBI has now successfully retrieved the data stored on the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple required by the Court Order. The FBI is currently reviewing the information on the phone, consistent with standard investigatory procedures.

It remains a priority for hte government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails. We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors. 

Monday’s developments mark the end to a saga which began when a court order directing Apple to help the FBI bypass a lock screen security measure was unsealed. Apple appealed not only in court documents, but in a open letter from CEO Tim Cook posted on its site, turning the legal battle into a very public dispute. 

Since then, there have been legal filings from both sides featuring severe language. The DOJ has called Apple’s stance “corrosive.” Cook has called the software that the FBI is requesting that Apple write “the software equivalent of cancer.”

The battle between the FBI and Apple surrounds Syed Farook’s government-issued iPhone. After he and his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino last December, investigators found his work phone, but were not able to access the data on it because it is encrypted.

The FBI was seeking to force Apple to write software that would allow investigators to try as many passcodes needed to unlock the device without tripping a security measure that would wipe the phone. 

Here’s the order from Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym vacating the original court order based on updated information from the government’s status report:

Vacate Apple-FBI

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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