FBI cracks San Bernardino iPhone; pulls court case against Apple

The news puts a pin in the court fight brewing between the U.S. government and tech community over encryption back doors.

The Justice Department pulled its legal action against Apple Monday after the FBI accessed data on an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. 

In a brief court filing, prosecutors said the FBI had accessed the phone’s data via a technical method proposed by a third party who approached them last week. The FBI announced they would try that that workaround just hours before DOJ was to meet Apple in U.S. District Court over an order compelling the tech giant to help the bureau bypass Apple’s vaunted encryption and access the phone’s contents. In the Monday filing, the department asks the court to vacate that order, given that the FBI can access the phone.

[Read more: The FBI’s newfound iPhone hack]

Since a federal magistrate first issued the contested order in February, the government and tech community have been engaged in a war of words over its legal implications. Many in the tech community believed that the Justice Department was trying to set a precedent whereby companies could be ordered to build backdoors into their products for the government to access when they deem fit. Everyone from tech CEOs to former federal officials voiced their objections in the lead up to the court case. 


Lawmakers also weighed in, creating legislation that would create either a working group and digital security commission that would give recommendations to Congress on the future of encryption and data security laws. 

The Justice Department said it will continue to work with private companies on ways it could get into encrypted systems if data is needed for law enforcement purposes. 

“It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails,” the statement read. 

Contact the reporter on this story via email at, or follow him on Twitter at @gregotto. His OTR and PGP info can be found here. Subscribe to the Daily Scoop for stories like this in your inbox every morning by signing up here:

Greg Otto

Written by Greg Otto

Greg Otto is Editor-in-Chief of CyberScoop, overseeing all editorial content for the website. Greg has led cybersecurity coverage that has won various awards, including accolades from the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. Prior to joining Scoop News Group, Greg worked for the Washington Business Journal, U.S. News & World Report and WTOP Radio. He has a degree in broadcast journalism from Temple University.

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