Justice Department lets Apple off the hook: feds unlock iPhone without Apple’s help

The past month and a half have been a wild one for Apple, the FBI, digital security pundits, and users concerned with their privacy, as we followed the government’s efforts to break into an encrypted iPhone 5c handset involved in a terrorism case. Apple was initially ordered to produce software that would enable the FBI to easily brute force its way into the phone, but Apple fought back, preparing for a legal showdown with broad consequences. We were all ready to see Apple get its day in court last week, but at the last moment the government changed its tune, reporting that it may have found a way into the iPhone without the need for Apple’s assistance. Today we finally receive confirmation that it’s done just that, and the Department of Justice is asking to vacate the order demanding Apple’s help.

That’s good news for Apple in the sense that it no longer has to fight tooth-and-nail to avoid being forced to weaken the security of its own products, but it be a bit of a hollow victory. After all, nothing’s really been resolved here in terms of the government’s ability to compel companies to develop code against their will, and we could easily see a similar situation play out in the future – maybe one where the FBI’s efforts to find its own way to bypass a device’s security features won’t prove as successful.

In effect, we’ve only delayed the end of this conversation about the messy intersection between the state’s interest in accessing possible evidence, the ability of companies to deliver secure products and services, and the interests of users in keeping their private data private.

Rest assured, we’ll have another chance at seeing those issues addressed. For now, the FBI has what it wants, and Apple can go back to giving its users stronger and stronger tools to manage information security.

Source: Apple Insider

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!