LAPD cracked open an iPhone 5s before the FBI made San Bernardino hack
Around the same time that the agency ordered the iPhone manufacturer to assist in decrypting an iPhone 5c that belonged to a gunman in the San Bernardino shootings, Los Angeles police were able to source a “forensic cellphone expert” to crack into an iPhone 5s that belonged to the wife of actor Michael Jace. He’s accused of murdering her back in May of 2014.
In a search warrant obtained and reviewed by The Los Angeles Times, investigators wanted to support their claim that both husband and wife, April, were arguing “about their relationship”. The warrant goes on to say that the cellphone was passcode-protected.
Last year, an L.A. judge ordered an Apple technician to assist in pulling data from the phone’s hard disk. In January, the L.A. County district attorney’s office was able to obtain data from the SIM card. The phone became “disabled” after that point — investigators were not able to turn on the iPhone 5s in February. It was in March that police were able to obtain the unidentified “expert”. They were able to examine the device’s contents by April.
We don’t know what version of iOS the phone was on, nor do we see the decryption method disclosed in the warrant, dated March 18.
The Justice Department announced on March 28 that it was able to crack into the iPhone 5c it was investigating with only the help of an “outside party“. The FBI said that the exploit it got was very specific to the iPhone 5c and would not work with an iPhone 5s.
We’ve put in a request for comment to Apple on this matter. We’ll update this post if we hear back.