New York case could push DOJ to tell Apple how FBI unlocked San Bernadino iPhone

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Date: Thursday, March 31st, 2016, 09:57
Category: iPhone, Legal, News, security


Apple might be able to learn how the FBI unlocked the iPhone 5c used in the San Bernadino shooting if a New York lawsuit goes through.

To date, the FBI has remained mum as to how it unlocked the iPhone without Apple’s help, halting its court case against Apple. Interestingly, the unlocking brought a temporary halt to a second case in New York. There the Department of Justice was using the same All Writs Act argument in a Brooklyn court (above) to demand Apple help it unlock another iPhone in an unrelated drugs case.

That case was deferred in order to await the outcome of the FBI’s unlock attempt.

If the same method used by the FBI works in the NY case, then the case will be vacated as happened in California. But if the method doesn’t work, then the case will resume. That could allow Apple to demand proof that the San Bernardino method failed in the NY case, and such proof would mean revealing the method used.

Prosecutors have yet to say whether the method used to unlock the iPhone used by Syed Farook, the San Bernadino shooter, will work for other seize iPhones. Should the Brooklyn case continue, Apple could pursue legal discovery that would potentially force the FBI to reveal what technique it used on the San Bernardino phone.

If the DOJ claims that the method will not work on the iPhone here, Apple will seek to test that claim, as well as any claims by the government that other methods cannot be used.

The DOJ has said that it would advise the court of its intentions no later than April 11th.

The current rumor on the ground is that Cellebrite, the Israel-based mobile forensics company the FBI contracted the San Bernadino iPhone to in order to unlock it, used NAND mirroring prior to attempting to circumvent the passcode lockout. NAND mirroring essentially makes a backup of the data in question, copying it to another file that is not susceptible to destruction in the event of a certain number of failed attempts.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Via 9to5Mac and Reuters

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