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FBI Found its Way Into iPhones

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It looks like we’re going to have to wait for the knock-down, drag-out brawl between Apple and the FBI. It turns out the law enforcement agency doesn’t actually need help to get into the phone of Syed Farook.

The FBI has announced that they have discovered a new way to allow a third party to gain access to the data on the San Bernardino shooting suspect’s phone. Consequently the hearing between lawyers representing the tech giant and the Department of Justice has been postponed for at least two weeks.

From the outset, the FBI has been insisting that there was no way to get the data without assistance from Apple, though tech experts disagreed. There are at least two known ways to do so, the first being extracting the phone’s UID, the master key for an iOS device’s encryption. It’s time consuming, difficult to do (Apple doesn’t know each specific phone’s UID), and there is some risk of losing the data, but with it, the FBI would have total access. The second way, essentially they would need to make a backup copy of the information that would normally be deleted when you run out of passcode guesses, but when the FBI reached their guess limit they could re-flash the backed up data and start all over.

Though these have been tossed around as the two most likely methods of cracking the phone, the DOJ’s insistence on needing Apple’s assistance was generally met with skepticism by the tech community, who felt that the FBI was using a high profile terrorist attack as a way to test how far a tech firm could be pressed into hacking their own encryption under existing laws. In an ironic twist, Apple is now insisting that if the FBI has in fact found a new way to bypass their encryption, they should tell them what it is.