eDiscovery Daily Blog

Breaking News: The BIG Battle between Apple and the FBI is Over – For Now: eDiscovery Trends

Last week, we reported that the FBI said that it might no longer need Apple’s assistance in opening an iPhone used by a gunman in the San Bernardino, Calif., rampage last year.  Looks like that was the case.

According to CNN Money (FBI says it has cracked terrorist’s iPhone without Apple’s help, written by Jackie Wattles and Laurie Segall), the Department of Justice says the FBI has accessed the iPhone used by one of the gunmen in the San Bernardino terrorist shooting, with the help of an unnamed third party.  Saying that it has successfully retrieved the data from the phone, the Justice Department is asking the court to vacate its order from last month for Apple’s assistance.

“The FBI has now successfully retrieved the data stored on the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple required by this Court Order,” DOJ spokeswoman Melanie Newman said in a statement.

Government officials did not go into detail about what was found on the phone.

The two sides were due in court last week, but the judge granted a last minute request from the DOJ to postpone the hearing, saying an unidentified “outside party” came to the FBI with an alternative method for hacking into the phone.  On Monday, the DOJ said the method only works on this particular phone, which is an iPhone 5C running a version of iOS 9 software.

A law enforcement official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, would not reveal how it pulled off this hack. He would not name the “third party” that helped the FBI. And he refused to say whether the FBI will disclose this hacking method to Apple so the company can protect future phones from being hacked this way.  “We can’t comment on the possibility of future disclosures at this point,” the law enforcement official said.

Last month, a federal judge ordered Apple to give investigators access to encrypted data on the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, a court order that Apple has fought, accusing the federal government of an “overreach” that could potentially breach the privacy of millions of customers.  That same day, Apple CEO Tim Cook published an open letter, pledging to fight the judge’s ruling that it should give FBI investigators access to encrypted data on the device.  And, the two sides have battled over the issue in court over the past month.

So, who is this “outside party”?  Was Steve Jobs resurrected over the weekend?  It was Easter, after all.  :o)  Regardless, it appears that the dispute is over – at least until the next time that the DOJ and the FBI need to hack into an Apple device.

So, what do you think?  Do you think we will see more disputes like this in the future?  Please share any comments you might have with us or let us know if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.