The Justice Department on Monday, on the same day Apple made a public defense of its refusal to create a hole in the security of iOS, asked a federal judge to put a halt to a hearing scheduled for Tuesday to demand the iPhone unlock hack. The Obama administration suggested that a third-party had come forward with a possible means to break into the iPhone of the San Bernardino jihadi terrorist.
“Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone,” the Justice Department wrote in the filing. “If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple.”
Farook’s iPhone has a four-digit PIN that is preventing the iPhone unlock. The FBI are afraid the setting to erase the phone after a number of unsuccessful tries was activated, and want Apple to engineer a version of the operating system that could be slipstreamed onto the phone that would let them try all 10,000 possible combinations automatically without triggering a wipe. Apple has said that creating such a security hole would open the door to others figuring it out including criminals, would make every iPhone less secure against attack and hack, and would set a precedent that could allow less savory governments of other countries to demand similar access to an iPhone unlock hack.
This is interesting timing on the Justice Department’s part. I’m skeptical about this supposed third-party iPhone unlock hack. Perhaps they have seen the tide of public open shift against then. Perhaps they’re afraid of setting a judicial precedent if the case goes against them. I won’t be surprised if this case sinks out of the public eye, never to re-surface again.