FBI helping unlock another iPhone — is this just the beginning?

FBI helping unlock another iPhone — is this just the beginning?

By Levi Sumagaysay      / March 31, 2016 at 11:19 AM

Is it open season on iPhones? The FBI said late Wednesday it will help unlock an iPhone and iPad in an Arkansas murder case, a couple of days after the feds dropped their fight against Apple in the San Bernardino terrorism investigation.

The Associated Press points out that it’s unclear whether the FBI will use the method it recently found to unlock the iPhone in the San Bernardino case. But that may not help with public perception that the floodgates have opened.

As Troy Wolverton wrote earlier this week, “if we didn’t realize it before, Apple’s software is clearly a target.” He also pointed out that “there’s a good chance that the FBI won’t be the only one targeting iPhones.”

What’s more, some security experts are saying the company may not get the FBI to cooperate and share how it was able to hack into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone — making it harder for Apple to identify and fix the vulnerability. But Reuters, which wrote about how a review process might work — a White House group is supposed to review security flaws and decide whether to disclose them — found someone who thinks there’s a “strong case” for giving Apple the information it needs.

“The process emphasizes the importance of defense for widely used, commercial software,” Peter Swire, a law professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology who served on the White House group that recommended the administration disclose most flaws, told Reuters.

In other news about unlocking iPhones:

• A mother in Louisiana wants help in unlocking the iPhone of her dead daughter, hoping it will lead to clues about the killing of Brittney Mills, who was 29 and pregnant when she was shot to death. Apple turned over iCloud data, but won’t help break the encryption on the phone. East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore tells NPR that he’s waiting to hear from the FBI about whether it can help unlock Mills’ phone.

• A father in Italy has reportedly written to Apple CEO Tim Cook to ask the company to unlock his dead son’s iPhone so he can retrieve photos from it. The boy was 13 when he died of cancer. If Apple refuses, the father reportedly intends to turn to Cellebrite, the Israeli mobile forensics firm that’s rumored to have helped the FBI unlock the phone in the San Bernardino case.


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