FBI hacks into iPhone, US drops legal battle against Apple 

Washington, March 29 (IANS) After successfully hacking into the encrypted Apple iPhone of one of the terrorists in San Bernardino, California shooting, the US Department of Justice has withdrawn legal action against the tech giant.

According to the media reports, a third party helped the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to crack the security function without erasing contents of the iPhone used by Syed Farook.

Farook, along with his wife Tashfeen Malik, planned and executed the December 2, 2015 shooting that left 14 people killed.

“This case should never have been brought. We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated,” Apple said in a statement on Monday.

“This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy,” the statement said.

Recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook, referring to the ongoing battle with the US government over encryption to unlock an iPhone, reiterated the company’s commitment to protect its users’ data and privacy.

Addressing a packed auditorium at its Cupertino, California-based headquarters, Cook said: “We have a responsibility to help you protect your data and your privacy. We will not shrink from this responsibility.”

“We built the iPhone for you, our customers, and for many of us it is a deeply personal device,” he told the gathering during a special launch event this month.

On Monday, the federal government department, on behalf of the FBI, made the move at a US court in Central California, Xinhua reported.

The two-page court filing said that the FBI had accessed data stored on the iPhone 5c.

A week ago, a day before the DOJ and the Silicon Valley technology company were scheduled to appear at a hearing at the court, the government said it was trying a new way to unlock the phone used by Farook.

The smartphone has a feature that erases data after 10 unsuccessful unlocking attempts.

Successfully bypassing Apple in its efforts to look into the phone for information probably helpful in the terror attack investigation, the DOJ did not make public on Monday any details about who did help and how did it make through.

Apple had been resisting the order by Judge Pym since February 16, when she ordered the manufacturer to provide the FBI with specialised software to disable the security feature.

In an earlier TV interview, citing privacy protection for customers as a reason, Cook suggested that he would fight the case all the way up the US Supreme Court.

The argument was heated, as the government side fought on the ground that it was a work phone owned by the San Bernardino county, and the software would be in the possession of Apple rather than in the hands of FBI agents.

Both sides seemed to have failed to win full public support.

However, the DOJ’s decision not to go after Apple’s assistance effectively put the dispute to an end, at least for now.

And it is now Apple’s turn to figure out, and for iPhone users to wonder, how secure is the phone and data on the device.

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