The FBI Backs Down Against Apple—Again
The latest high-stakes standoff between Apple and the FBI has come to an end. After claiming for months that Apple alone could unlock the two iPhones of Pensacola shooter Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the agency announced today that it had managed to do so without Cupertino’s help—and without undermining the encryption that protects over a billion iOS devices worldwide.
The détente comes five months after the attack last December at Naval Air Station Pensacola, in which Alshamrani killed three people and wounded eight more before being shot and killed by local law enforcement. The FBI recovered Alshamrani’s iPhone 5 and an iPhone 7 Plus in the wake of shooting; the devices were badly damaged, which the Justice Department implied in January made it more difficult to break in through traditional methods. The stance was always curious. The FBI confirmed it had managed to get the iPhones up and running, and has access to forensics tools from companies like Cellebrite that claim the ability to break into any iOS device. Older models like Alshamrani’s should have been relatively trivial to crack. But as with the 2015 San Bernadino shooting, the high-stakes case proved all too tempting for the agency to try to set a bad precedent.