The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has successfully accessed data stored on an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters without the American tech giant’s help, US officials say.
The breakthrough effectively ended the Obama administration’s controversial court case against Apple Inc. on Monday.
“The FBI has now successfully retrieved the data stored on the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple required by this Court Order,” Justice Department spokeswoman Melanie Newman said in a statement on Monday.
“The FBI is currently reviewing the information on the phone, consistent with standard investigatory procedures,” the statement added.
On February 16, a federal judge ordered the company to assist the FBI in opening Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone.
In response, the Justice Department filed a motion seeking to force Apple to comply with the judge’s order to unlock the encrypted iPhone, pushing back on the company’s characterization of the request as a “back door” threatening the privacy of all iPhones.
Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were shot dead in a shootout with police hours after the massacre in a Department of Public Health training event and holiday party on December 2, 2015, which left 14 dead and 22 injured.
The Obama administration’s legal battle to force Apple to decrypt Farook’s phone led to criticism from privacy campaigners.
Amnesty International also blasted the US administration, saying its attacks on the encryption of online communications threaten human rights worldwide.
Apple had argued that helping crack the phone in question would lead to less secure iPhones for all customers and that current law does not force the company to comply.
The Justice Department framed Apple’s refusal to comply as a “marketing strategy.”
FBI experts were afraid of losing the data on the phone after several failed attempts to enter the password, arguing only Apple can solve the problem.