Much ado …. full of sound and fury … signifying nothing.
So, Syed Farook’s iPhone that Apple refused to unlock, which the FBI took Apple to court for, which was finally cracked by an Israeli company working for the FBI, contained nothing of any significance. Still, I suppose the FBI and Apple (and the Israeli security company Cellebrite) have all had their time strutting and fretting on the stage, and all publicity is good publicity.
But the FBI come out of this looking petty and silly.
A law enforcement source tells CBS News that so far nothing of real significance has been found on the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone, which was unlocked by the FBI last month without the help of Apple.
It was stressed that the FBI continues to analyze the information on the cellphone seized in the investigation, senior investigative producer Pat Milton reports. Investigators spent months trying to gain access to data on the locked iPhone used by San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook, believing that it might hold information on the plans or contacts of the attackers, who killed 14 people on December 2, 2015.
Apple was fighting a court order to assist the FBI in bypassing the phone’s security measures. On March 28, the FBI announced that it had managed to unlock the phone and was dropping the court fight with Apple.
The FBI has not disclosed what method it used to access the data on the iPhone but the method is believed to have been developed by a third party, a private entity, the government has refused to identify.
FBI Director James Comey said last week that the bureau has not decided whether to share details with Apple about how it hacked into Farook’s iPhone 5c. “If we tell Apple, they’re going to fix it and we’re back where we started,” Comey said. “As silly as it may sound, we may end up there. We just haven’t decided yet.”
As The Register points out the FBI were more interested in attacking Apple and actually did not expect to find anything. They probably always knew that Cellebrite could get into the phone but dinät reveal that to support their position in court:
The news will not come as much of a surprise to anyone who has followed the case: the phone in question was one of three used by Farook. It was his work phone and was owned by his employer, the health department.
His two personal phones were found by investigators, crushed and dumped in a trash can at his house. Since Farook had clearly gone to some trouble to destroy any digital evidence (he also smashed up hard drives and other digital media), the fact that the iPhone in question was recovered intact made it highly unlikely that it held anything of real value.
Regardless, the FBI used the existence of the phone and the shocking nature of the crime to wage a public war with Apple over encryption and access to electronic goods. Having mistakenly caused the phone’s cloud storage to be reset (some doubt it was a mistake), the FBI applied through the courts to force Apple to develop a way for it to pull all the information of the phone.
The court served an injunction but Apple refuse to honor it, claiming that the request effectively obliged it to break its own product’s security and would have implications far beyond the single phone.
Following a very public spat in which Apple refused to back down, and voices in Washington starting to criticize the FBI for trying to seek a legal precedent rather than solve a crime, the day before a legal hearing on the matter, the FBI suddenly announced it had found a third party that was able to grant it access to the phone’s data.