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US Drops iPhone Encryption Case After Getting Passcode

The United States government has dropped a case in which it attempted to get Apple to extract information from an iPhone after receiving the passcode to the device.

The United States government has dropped a case in which it attempted to get Apple to extract information from an iPhone after receiving the passcode to the device.

In February, the FBI convinced a judge to order Apple to create a piece of software that would allow the agency to brute-force the passcode on the iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter. Apple refused to comply, arguing that creating a backdoor to the iPhone puts its customers at risk and creates a dangerous precedent.

In late March, the FBI announced that it managed to break into the San Bernardino attacker’s phone without Apple’s help and the case was dropped. Authorities were reportedly helped by grey hat hackers to crack the phone and FBI director James Comey suggested that the agency paid over $1 million.

However, that was not the end of the battle between the US government and Apple, with the DEA and FBI trying to get the tech giant to assist in extracting data from an iPhone involved in a New York drug case. In both cases, the government attempted to use a 227-year-old law called the All Writs Act.

In the New York case, a suspected methamphetamine trafficker had already confessed and was awaiting sentencing. Apple had been asked to extract data from the suspect’s phone for purposes of sentencing.

Apple argued that the government was over-reaching its authority and a US magistrate judge agreed with the company. Authorities filed an appeal and kept the battle alive until last week when Robert Capers, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, informed the court that “an individual provided the passcode to the iPhone at issue in this case.”

“The government used that passcode by hand and gained access to the iPhone. Accordingly, the government no longer needs Apple’s assistance to unlock the iPhone, and withdraws its application,” Capers wrote.

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While the cases targeting Apple have been dropped, US lawmakers still seek to pass legislation that would require tech firms to help law enforcement unlock encrypted devices. The discussion draft unveiled earlier this month by Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein was heavily criticized by security experts and civil rights advocates for its technical flaws and potentially dangerous effects.

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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