Apple Says Apple ID Password on San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone Changed While in Government Possession

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According to a report from BuzzFeed’s John Paczkowski, Apple executives shared key information about government missteps that may have led to reduced access to the iPhone in question. The information was shared shortly after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion demanding Apple comply with an order to help it unlock the iPhone 5c of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook.

According to Apple, the Apple ID password on the iPhone was changed “less than 24 hours” after being in government hands. Had the password not been altered, Apple believes the backup information the government is asking for could have been accessible to Apple engineers.

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The FBI has said it has access to weekly iCloud backups leading up to October 19, but not after that date, and it is seeking later information that could be stored on the device.

“The executives said the company had been in regular discussions with the government since early January, and that it proposed four different ways to recover the information the government is interested in without building a back door. One of those methods would have involved connecting the phone to a known wifi network.

Apple sent engineers to try that method, the executives said, but the experts were unable to do it. It was then that they discovered that the Apple ID passcode associated with the phone had been changed.”

Apple executives said the entire backdoor demand could have potentially been avoided if the Apple ID password not been changed. The FBI wants a version of iOS that accepts electronic passcode input and removes passcode features like time limits and data erasure following failures.

Apple says the software would be the equivalent of a master key that could be used to access millions of devices and has called the demand an “overreach” with chilling implications. Apple executives today also refuted the DOJ’s claim that the company’s refusal to comply is a marketing tactic, saying it was done based on “love for the country” and “desire not to see civil liberties tossed aside.”

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  • johnnygoodface

    One less argument in favor of a backdoor. If the FBI would have consulted Apple before attempting anything on the phone, maybe they would have gotten the information they were looking for. This being said, it’s easy to play with people’s emotions after a shooting like that and require a backdoor to prevent this in the future…. But as I’m sure everybody is realizing now is that a backdoor could be use by the “other side” too… by the “bad” people…. and by the way: off we go with your privacy of course!!

  • Exactly. That’s what Tim Cook has been saying from the beginning. Allow a back door will also allow bad guys to gain access as well.

    Apple has fought for years to end the ability to jailbreak iPhones, which only works for a few weeks before someone finds another way around their fix. Opening a back door to the very smart people of the developer community would result in the back door being exploited in various different ways in a very short period of time it takes for them to figure out how.

  • gerry

    Their’s always a saying that ‘things will be kept in good hands’ but once it falls into the wrong hands of somebody, it’s a big out of control issue.

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    I’m with Apple in not wanting the US government snooping around my phone, but on the other hand, there hasn’t been an iOS jailbreak in a while. So my ideal solution would be to outlaw protection at the OS level that makes jailbreaking iOS so hard or even sometimes impossible (e.g. the 3rd gen Apple TV) and just leaving it up to the app manufacturers to use as much encryption as their hearts desire. Best of both worlds – safe data and phones we can actually do what we like with.