Published: Fri, November 10, 2017
Science | By Eileen Rhodes

Federal Bureau of Investigation did not initially ask Apple for help unlocking shooter's phone

Federal Bureau of Investigation did not initially ask Apple for help unlocking shooter's phone

The company refused, saying to do so would create a security weakness in the phones of all customers.

The rampage might revive the debate over the balance of digital privacy rights and national security.

Business Insider added that "The implication is that had law enforcement contacted Apple sooner, it would have received tips and guidance that could have helped it preserve access to the data on Kelley's phone". A similar case fizzled when the suspect suddenly remembered his passcode and provided it to investigators.

Kelley, 26, opened fire Sunday morning in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, east of San Antonio, killing 26 people and injuring 20 others, according to police. Officials did not say what type of phone Kelley had, but people familiar with the case said it was an iPhone. The company said its offer was made after the company learned of FBI's failed efforts to unlock the iPhone during the press conference. Given its trouble in cracking the device, it is speculated that the device is an iPhone-the same device that caused issue for the agency after another deadly shooting that took place in San Bernardino, 2015. Agents have been unable to retrieve data from half the mobile devices - more than 6,900 phones, computers and tablets - that they tried to access in less than a year, FBI Director Christopher Wray said last month, wading into an issue that also vexed his predecessor, James Comey. If Kelley had enabled Apple's "Touch ID" feature, authorities could've potentially used his corpse's fingerprint to unlock the device.

The Cupertino-based giant said it reached out to the bureau "immediately" to offer assistance in getting into the gunman's iPhone and expedite its response to any legal process, The Verge reported late on 9 November.

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After the mass shooting in San Bernardino in 2015, Apple took the Federal Bureau of Investigation head-on in a legal battle over unlocking the iPhone of one of the perpetrators, Abdul Farook. The gunman in that incident worked for the county government, and the phone in question was his work phone. That foreclosed the possibility of an automatic backup to Apple iCloud servers, which could have been accessed by investigators. Sign up for the free Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter.

But that impulse may be tempered by another consideration: So far, it appears the gunman acted alone in what some officials have called a domestic violence problem that escalated into a mass murder.

Eventually, in September 2016, the Department of Justice announced that it had managed to hack into the phone and withdrew a suit it had placed against the company.

While FBI Director Christopher A. Wray has warned that there are almost 7,000 phones that can not be opened and said that such technologies are making it harder to fight terrorism and crime, Congress has shown little interest in tackling the issue. "With the advance of the technology and the phones and the encryptions, law enforcement - whether that's at the state, local or federal level - is increasingly not able to get into these phones".

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