In 2016, the FBI and Apple engaged in a widely reported public relations battle over iPhone encryption. As a quick refresher, the FBI was unable to unlock an iPhone 5c belonging to Syed Farook, one of the perpetrators involved in a 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. In turn, the FBI wanted Apple to create a custom version of iOS that would allow them to bypass the device’s lockscreen. Apple strenuously objected, with Tim Cook even going so far as to say that the FBI wanted Apple to create the software equivalent of cancer.
Now, many months later, a similar sequence of events has developed. According to a report from Wired, the FBI is currently having trouble accessing a locked iPhone that belonged to Dahir Adan, the terrorist who went on a stabbing rampage at a mall in Minnesota where he attacked 10 people before an off-duty cop managed to kill him.
In a statement to reporters, FBI special agent Rich Thorton said that the FBI is “in the process of assessing our legal and technical options to gain access to this device and the data it may contain.”
Thornton didn’t say in the press conference what model iPhone Adan owned or what operating system the device ran. Both are key factors in whether the FBI will be able to get past its security measures. That’s because beginning with iOS 8 in 2014, iPhones and iPads have been encrypted such that not even Apple can decrypt the device’s contents, even when police or FBI serve a warrant to the company demanding its help.
Of course, the FBI paid big bucks for a software solution to access Farook’s phone and it remains to be seen if that same solution can be utilized in this case.
All the same, the iPhone in question shouldn’t be thought of as impregnable, especially with more and more security companies touting their abilities to access data residing on any locked iPhone and Android device.