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Apple Said It Can't Unlock iPhones Locked by Customers — Judge Orders Them To Do It Anyway

Right: San Bernardino Shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik arrive in Chicago on July 27, 2014.
Right: San Bernardino Shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik arrive in Chicago on July 27, 2014.


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Judge Forces Apple to Help Unlock San Bernardino Shooter iPhone


By Andrew Blankstein
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Apple to give investigators access to encrypted data on the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, assistance the computer giant "declined to provide voluntarily," according to court papers.

In a 40-page filing, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles argued that it needed Apple to help it find the password and access "relevant, critical … data" on the locked cellphone of Syed Farook, who with his wife Tashfeen Malik murdered 14 people in San Bernardino, California on December 2.

"Despite … a warrant authorizing the search," said prosecutors, "the government has been unable to complete the search because it cannot access the iPhone's encrypted content. Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search, but has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily."

Prosecutors said they needed Apple's help accessing the phone's data to find out who the shooters were communicating with and who may helped plan and carry out the massacre, as well as where they traveled prior to the incident.

The judge ruled Tuesday that the Cupertino-based company had to provide "reasonable technical assistance" to the government in recovering data from the iPhone 5c, including bypassing the auto-erase function and allowing investigators to submit an unlimited number of passwords in their attempts to unlock the phone. Apple has five days to respond to the court if it believes that compliance would be "unreasonably burdensome."

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