The US government unlocked another iPhone without Apple’s help

Not unhackable… especially if you know the passcode.
Not unhackable… especially if you know the passcode.
Image: Reuters Photo/Kai Pfaffenbach
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The US government has abandoned its latest attempt to compel Apple to help unlock an iPhone, because someone gave them the passcode. This is the second high-profile case in which the government has insisted it required Apple’s assistance, only to find another way in.

The earlier case, involving the phone of San Bernadino shooter Syed Farook, ended when the government paid at least $1.3 million to purchase a hack from a third party. Apple had been fighting a vigorous legal battle to avoid undermining its own security measures, even invoking the first amendment to the US constitution.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation did not share details of the hack with Apple, which is now stuck trying to figure out how they did it. That is not a problem Apple is likely to have in this latest case. According to the US Attorney, “an individual provided the passcode.” The Wall Street Journal is reporting it is the owner of the phone, the accused Jun Feng, who had previously claimed to have forgotten it. (paywall)

The entirety of the government’s statement reads:

The government respectfully submits this letter to update the Court and the parties. Yesterday evening, an individual provided the passcode to the iPhone at issue in this case. Late last night, 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.