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FBI battle over locked iPhone could have been avoided with a $4 piece of software

Published Feb 23rd, 2016 1:26PM EST
FBI Vs. Apple

The entire legal battle between the FBI and Apple over the San Bernardino shooter’s locked iPhone could have completely been avoided with just a simple $4 piece of software. According to an article on CBS News, the shooter’s iPhone 5c could have been unlocked remotely had the county government which owned and issued the phone installed mobile device management (MDM) software.

All the more frustrating is that the county actually paid for MDM services but failed to install the requisite software.

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“The county government that owned the iPhone in a high-profile legal battle between Apple Inc. and the Justice Department paid for but never installed a feature that would have allowed the FBI to easily and immediately unlock the phone…,” the report reads in part. “The service costs $4 per month per phone.”

MDM framework tools are built right into iOS and are often used in corporate environments so that organizations can more readily configure devices, manage important settings, monitor compliance, distribute and install apps, and even remotely wipe and lock devices that have been stolen.

Alas, a problem that could have easily been avoided has since resulted in a standoff between the FBI and Apple that doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon. Even though Apple has been ordered by a U.S. magistrate judge to help the FBI get into the shooter’s locked iPhone 5c, Apple has adamantly refused, with Tim Cook arguing that creating a new piece of software to skirt around built-in iPhone security measures would set an extremely dangerous precedent.

Yoni Heisler Contributor

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.