The Justice Department said Monday it may not need Apple’s help after all to unlock an iPhone that was used by Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters. The development came just a day before Apple and the U.S. government were poised for a dramatic face-off in a California court, but the federal judge overseeing the case postponed the hearing Monday evening.
The government’s move puts the brakes—at least temporarily—on a steadily escalating conflict over Apple’s security measures. Apple maintains that it should not be coerced into writing code that would help the FBI break into Farook’s iPhone, but the FBI argued that was the only possible way it could access the phone and any evidence within that could help it investigate the San Bernardino attack.
Now, it appears that may not be the case. In a court filing, the FBI says a party outside the government demonstrated a new way to unlock the iPhone that would not require Apple’s intervention. The technique was demonstrated on Sunday, and the government reached out to Apple Monday afternoon with the new information. It asked for two weeks’ time to test the method.
In a call with reporters, Apple lawyers said they were not aware who the outside party was, or what the unlocking method could be. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the lawyers acknowledged that the case could continue after about two weeks if the method failed. They said they hope the FBI will share the vulnerability with them.