FBI Finds ‘Third Party’ Method Of Unlocking Terrorist’s Encrypted iPhone

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Apple hearing suspended after government files motion claiming a third party method of getting into the San Bernardino’s iPhone has been made available

The FBI will be bringing in a “third party” to help unlock the encrypted San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, potentially ending the bitter legal battle between itself and Apple.

US Prosecutors said on Monday that a “third party” had provided a method to the FBI for getting into the encrypted iPhone, Rizwan Farook.

The bureau, until yesterday, had been insistent that the only way to get into the phone was to force Apple to write software that could unlock the device.

But on Monday, a Riverside, California federal judge agreed to a request from the government to postpone Tuesday’s hearing, allowing the FBI to reportedly attempt to unlock the phone using the “third party” method, Reuters reported.

‘Possible method’

“On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone,” the US government filing said.

apple“Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. (“Apple”) set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case.”

Apple has been vehemently opposed to the FBI’s case, last month asked the US court to reverse its order for the tech firm to help the FBI hack into the iPhone.

Apple has so far  refused to co-operate over the matter, and said that the move violates its constitutional rights and that law enforcement authorities are seeking “dangerous powers”.
On Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his company’s stance on encryption and thanked the general public for their support during the launch of the iPhone SE and iPad Pro 9.7.

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An update on the case is set to be announced on April 5, according to the Justice Department. The government did not disclose who or what the “third party” method is, but earlier this week researchers from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland claimed to have found a bug that could decrypt photos and videos on an iPhone.

Computer professor Matthew D. Green, who was in charge of the research, told The Washington Post: “Even Apple, with all their skills — and they have terrific cryptographers — wasn’t able to quite get this right. So it scares me that we’re having this conversation about adding back doors to encryption when we can’t even get basic encryption right.”

Green said that his team of students will soon publish a paper on the method they found to attack Apple software and break the encryption. However, the paper will be published after Apple rolls out ints iOS 9.3 update, an update which would remove any such flaw.

Apple issued a statement following Green’s announcement. The company said: “We appreciate the team of researchers that identified this bug and brought it to our attention so we could patch the vulnerability… Security requires constant dedication and we’re grateful to have a community of developers and researchers who help us stay ahead.”

Mark Skilton a Professor of Practice at Warwick Business School and an expert on cybersecurity, said in a statement today: “There are several ways the FBI may have circumvented the security of the iPhone, but I would assume this has been uncovered later in the case by an external third party contacting the federal agency.

“These methods may have been in three areas: a direct method to open the iPhone hardware or emulation method to enter the phone, outside the mobile by data collected from telecoms traffic or a ‘soft’ method that had collected data from other mobile or device / web sources that had connected to the iPhone, the people whom the San Bernardino Terrorist had communicated with.”

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