If the consequences weren’t so dire, the developments it the case of the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone are almost too comical to be real. The matter, however, is very serious, both for those whose lives were lost and affected in last year’s shootings as well as for the future of mobile device legislation. In the most recent back and forth between the US government and Apple, the FBI finally acknowledged that it had a hand in getting the iPhone’s iCloud password reset, and act which Apple claims has closed the doors on harvesting the device’s data without requiring a backdoor.
Apple has countless times been at the center of any government attempt to legalize and enforce a backdoor of sorts for its devices and services. Last week, however, things came to a head when, for the first time, Apple was ordered by a federal court to assist in the investigation of the San Bernardino shooter by crafting a special version of iOS that bypasses the 10-tries-and-wipe autowipe feature of protected devices. Naturally, Apple refused to do saw, setting of the chain of events and media coverage, some might say circus, that we see know.
Apple claims that it has actually been cooperating with government authorities since January where its devices were involved. However, it refused to crack open the encrypted device itself. Instead, the company’s engineers proposed at least four ways it can get to the data without doing so. However, all of those possible methods became meaningless when Apple discovered that the shooter’s iCloud password has already been reset, closing the doors for more effective and less intrusive ways to get the data.
At first, there was a claim that a rogue or too eager employee in San Bernardino county was responsible for the reset. The county, however, said that it only did so upon the request of the FBI, something which the FBI did eventually admit. The bureau, however, countered that such a move didn’t bar Apple from complying with the court’s order. Apple’s argument is that it would have been put in this situation if the FBI didn’t jump the gun. The password was reset less than 24 hours after the government took possession of the evidence.
An Apple exec was reported to have said that it wasn’t technically impossible for the company to comply but that isn’t the point it has taken issue with. It is vigorously fighting this one single case because it is the first time it has been ordered to create a custom iOS version. While the FBI claims that it will be used for this and only this case, Apple insists that it sets a dangerous precedent. Already, many government officials and attorneys are expressing interest in cracking open more devices related to their cases. With Apple refusing to budge, the case is most likely to escalate to higher courts, particularly the Supreme Court, soon.