The announcement echoed previous standoffs between Apple and also the Justice department that have all finished the very same way.

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Attorney general William Barr speaks at the Justice department in Washington on Dec. 3, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty images file
After months of claiming the Apple"s privacy protections had stalled its investigation, the justice Department stated Monday the it had actually accessed a terrorism suspect"s iPhone through no aid from the company.

In a news conference Monday, Attorney general William Barr said Mohammed Alshamrani, the Saudi air force officer accused the killing three classmates and wounding eight other people at marine Air terminal Pensacola, Florida, on Dec. 6, to be affiliated v al Qaeda. Throughout the attack, Alshamrani shot among his 2 iPhones, which the FBI wanted to study for possible ties to terrorist groups, authorities said. Apple has consistently held a position that it won"t re-engineer its phones for regulation enforcement.

"Apple"s decision has actually dangerous results for windy safety and also national security and also is, in my judgment, unacceptable," Barr stated Monday.

The notice echoed previous standoffs in between Apple and the Justice department that have all ended the same means — with law enforcement finding its own way in come unlock a phone in spite of claiming it essential Apple"s help.

Barr had used the case to renew a decades-old tug-of-war between the justice system and also the tech industry over whether exclusive companies have to be maybe to administer encrypted methods of interaction so secure that even the service providers that make the hardware and also the software can"t accessibility it.


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The FBI was able to eventually access Alshamrani"s phone not by an extraordinary technical feat, yet rather through "an automated passcode guesser," according to a person acquainted with the case who speak on problem of anonymity because the human being was no authorized come speak publicly top top the matter.

Barr — and many rather in regulation enforcement — have consistently slammed Apple end its refusal to threaten its products for law enforcement. In ~ a cybersecurity and law enforcement news conference critical year, Barr stated it was "only a matter of time before a sensational case crystallizes the concern for the public."

In January, Barr indicated that the Alshamrani situation "perfectly illustrates why that is vital that investigators be able to get accessibility to digital evidence once castle have derived a court order based upon probable cause."

"We have actually asked Apple for their aid in unlocking the shooter"s iPhones. For this reason far, Apple has not given us any substantive assistance," he said at a news conference.

Security professionals have resoundingly insisted throughout the years the deliberately developing a so-called backdoor into an encrypted maker would inherently produce a path for governments and criminals to gain in.

Riana Pfefferkorn, associate director the surveillance and also cybersecurity at the Stanford center for Internet and also Society, listed that the FBI was ultimately able to uncover a method into Alshamrani"s phone without Apple"s help.

That "further draws into question the requirement of inquiry Apple to develop an accessibility mechanism for regulation enforcement into their phones," Pfefferkorn said. "However, it is unlikely the the government will completely let up on calling for such a mandate."

The justice Department and also the tech industry have actually long discovered themselves in an uncomfortable grey area. Also if apologize doesn"t carry out a means for regulation enforcement come bypass its encryption, investigators have the right to turn to third-party suppliers that specialize in exploiting software program vulnerabilities to accessibility what"s on a defended device.

It is unclear exactly what version or models of iphone Alshamrani had. If they to be older models, it shows up likely the they would have been easier to rest into. Generally speaking, larger software, also on iPhones, is much less secure through definition.

Even as far earlier as January, federal investigators told Apple the they were using automated software to "guess" in ~ the passcodes to the phones, a process known as "brute force."

Two month after a fatal shoot in san Bernardino, California, in December 2015, the Justice department sought one order asking a federal magistrate referee to stimulate Apple to develop a customized version of that iPhone software application that would enable the brute force an approach to work. At the time, the federal government expressed concern that one of the iPhones belonging come a suspect in the shoot was set to auto-delete itself after 10 password attempts. Any attempt to retrieve evidence would nearly certainly fail.

The potential triggering of the auto-delete function doesn"t show up to have actually been a worry in the Pensacola case, however.

FBI manager Christopher Wray echoed Barr"s criticism that Apple, saying the government had "received effectively no help" from the company.

An apple spokesperson stated in a statement that the company has done everything it can to cooperate with law enforcement.

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Apple responded to the FBI"s very first requests for info just hours after the assault on Dec. 6 "and ongoing to support regulation enforcement throughout their investigation," the spokesperson said. "We provided every item of information obtainable to us, consisting of iCloud backups, account information and also transactional data because that multiple accounts, and we lent consistent and ongoing technical and investigative support to FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and brand-new York over the month since.

"The false claims made about our company are one excuse to threaten encryption and also other security procedures that protect millions of users and our national security."