FBI unlocks iPhone without Apple's assistance

The FBI's action points to other potential security issues with the iPhone.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it has successfully accessed the data stored on the iPhone used by one of the alleged shooters in last December's San Bernardino attack. Therefore, it no longer needs Apple's cooperation.

The DOJ stated: "With the recent assistance of a third party, we are now able to unlock that iPhone without compromising any information on the phone."

Apple, in a response, restated its position of privacy: "Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security, and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk."

While the DOJ's action has defused the standoff between the federal government and Apple, it points to other potential security issues. A statement by Electronic Frontier Foundation highlighted a key concern: "This new method of accessing the phone raises questions about the government's apparent use of security vulnerabilities in iOS and whether it will inform Apple about these vulnerabilities."

Update: In remarks this week, FBI Director James Comey said the bureau purchased from a third party the tool it used to exploit a flaw in the iPhone 5C. The director, at a privacy summit at Kenyon College, said the tool "doesn't work 6s, doesn't work in 5S. We have a tool that works on a narrow slice of phones." The director said the bureau has not yet decided whether to provide Apple with details about the flaw. "We tell Apple, they are going to fix it and then we are back at where we started from."

About Clifford Colby

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for Download.com. He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.