It appears that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is finally following the advice of every major security expert and pursuing alternate means of acquire the data on Farook’s iPhone, which means the agency’s crusade against Apple is temporarily postponed:
A magistrate in Riverside, CA has canceled a hearing that was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in the Apple v FBI case, at the FBI’s request late Monday. The hearing was part of Apple’s challenge to the FBI’s demand that the company create a new version of its iOS, which would include a backdoor to allow easier access to a locked iPhone involved in the FBI’s investigation into the 2015 San Bernardino shootings.
The FBI told the court that an “outside party” demonstrated a potential method for accessing the data on the phone, and asked for time to test this method and report back. This is good news. For now, the government is backing off its demand that Apple build a tool that will compromise the security of millions, contradicts Apple’s own beliefs, and is unsafe and unconstitutional.
This by no means marks the end of Crypto War II. The FBI very well could continue its legacy of incompetence and fail to acquire the data from the iPhone through whatever means its pursuing now. But this will buy us some time before a court rules that software developers are slave laborers whenever some judge issues a court order.
I’m going to do a bit of speculation here. My guess is that the FBI didn’t suddenly find somebody with a promising method of extracting data from the iPhone. After reading the briefs submitted by both Apple and the FBI it was obvious that the FBI either had incompetent lawyers or didn’t have a case. That being the case, I’m guessing the FBI decided to abandon its current strategy because it foresaw the court creating a precedence against it. It would be far better to abandon its current efforts and try again later, maybe against a company that is less competent than Apple, than to pursue what would almost certainly be a major defeat.
Regardless of the FBI’s reasoning, we can take a short breath and wait for the State’s next major attack against our rights.