The FBI's first option is likely to pressure the device-maker to help access the phone, but if that won't work they could try breaking into it. Sometimes "brute force" attacks aimed at methodically guessing a user's passcode can open a device, though that won't work with all phones.
Apple and the FBI could be gearing up for another legal battle after authorities admitted they cannot get access to the phone that belonged to the Texas church gunman.
The FBI eventually gained entry into Farook's smartphone without Apple's help, which may be the case this time around. If it receives a warrant or court order, Apple will give law enforcement authorities iCloud data, as well as the keys needed to decrypt it. Law enforcement officials grumble that warrants should allow them to sidestep such measures; the companies say they often can't unlock such phones even if ordered to.
Following a lawsuit by news organizations to reveal details of how the FBI obtained the data, a court ruled last month that the agency can keep the name of the hackers and the price of their work a secret.
We were shocked and saddened by the violence in Texas last Sunday, and we join the world in grieving for the families and community that lost so many loved ones.
The Texas church massacre is providing a familiar frustration for law enforcement: FBI agents are unable to unlock the gunman's encrypted iPhone. "With the advance of the technology and the phones and the encryption, law enforcement is increasingly not able to get into these phones", Combs told reporters, saying the device was being flown to an FBI lab for analysis.
Washington has proven incapable of solving a problem that an honest conversation could fix, said David Hickton, a former US attorney who now directs a cyberlaw institute at the University of Pittsburgh.
In a statement, Apple said: "Our team immediately reached out to the FBI after learning from their press conference on Tuesday that investigators were trying to access a mobile phone. We offered assistance and said we would expedite our response to any legal process they send us", an Apple spokesperson said in a statement.
"Unfortunately, some companies are unwilling to help enforce court orders to obtain evidence of criminal activity stored in electronic devices", Rosenstein said at a speech in Salt Lake City in August.
On Wednesday, November 8, Apple responded to the FBI's criticism stating that it actually reached out to assist the FBI shortly after Tuesday's press conference. FBI investigators did not reach out to Apple and instead asked a county technician to reset the shooter's Apple iCloud password. And this is a critical point, because timing could have been of the utmost importance; there is only a 48-hour window to unlock an iPhone equipped with Touch ID, a fingerprint recognition system. I don't think it's dependent on the political winds or who is the FBI director. "Apple was in touch with the FBI offering assistance via liaison officers", the report says.
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.
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