One of Apple’s biggest concerns about being compelled to assist the FBI in bypassing the security measures on the iPhone was that it would be just the first of many requests to get around the device’s encryption, thus increasing the odds of this work-around getting into the hands of hackers. Now comes news that the FBI — which was able to crack the iPhone lockdown without Apple’s assistance — is offering to unlock Apple devices for other law enforcement agencies.
The AP reports that the FBI has agreed to assist prosecutors in Arkansas by unlocking Apple devices belonging to a pair of teenagers charged with murder.
One of the teens was slated to go to trial next week, but after news broke earlier this week that the FBI had been able to bypass the iPhone encryption, the judge in the case agreed to delay proceedings until June so that prosecutors could seek assistance from the FBI in unlocking an iPhone and an iPad they believe contain evidence of the suspects’ plans for the July 2015 murder of a 66-year-old couple in Conway, AR.
The Prosecuting Attorney for Faulkner County now tells the AP that the federal law enforcement agency has agreed to use its recently devised technique to bypass the security on the suspects’ devices.
Recently released data from the American Civil Liberties Union shows the extent to which the FBI and other federal agencies have sought court orders to compel Apple and Google to assist in unlocking iPhones and Android smartphones.
Many of the more than 63 instances cited in the ACLU report involve phones that were seized before the two companies upgraded their operating systems in late 2014. Those upgrades now mean that neither Apple nor Google have easy backdoor access to users’ devices. It also means that complying with court orders to assist the FBI would require Apple or Google to come up with a way to weaken the privacy measures they put in place.
Google has said that is has yet to receive a court order compelling the company to bypass these upgraded security measures, but that it would challenge any such order if it received one.