Customers can be seen inside the Apple store in central Sydney, Australia, in this picture taken March 18, 2016.
Photo by David Gray/Reuters

Government says they got data off terror iPhone without Apple

The government has asked to drop the court order that it wanted to use to compel Apple to help unlock an iPhone used by San Bernardino attacker Syed Farook, saying it has gotten data off the device without the company’s help.

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“The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple,” the government said in its filing on Monday.

The government had been seeking Apple’s assistance in bypassing security features on the phone, on which the contents are encrypted. Lawyers for the Department of Justice asked for a delay in a court hearing last week, after saying that an unnamed third party had come forward with a possible way to crack the phone without Apple’s help.

It was not clear what method was used to get information off the phone, or what data the FBI might have obtained from the phone.

The party that brought the method to the FBI has not been identified, though who it might be has been a matter of much speculation.

“Our decision to conclude the litigation was based solely on the fact that, with the recent assistance of a third party, we are now able to unlock that iPhone without compromising any information on the phone,” United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement on Monday.

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The case became a high-profile battle between Apple and the government after the Department of Justice asked for an order that would compel the world’s most recognizable tech company to bypass security features on the iPhone so that investigators could try repeated passcode entries. The government surprised everyone, Apple included, by asking for a delay last week for a hearing scheduled for March 22.

“Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search, but has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily,” the government had said in its application for a court order on Feb. 16.

Apple CEO Tim Cook struck back in an open letter published later that day. Attorneys for Apple dubbed the tool the government was asking for “GovtOS” in court filings, and Cook called the method the “software equivalent of cancer.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. 

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Government says they got data off terror iPhone without Apple