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FBI Manages to Break Into a US Gunman's iPhone Without Apple's Assistance

Representative image (Reuters)

Representative image (Reuters)

The iPhone belonged to Mohammed Aishamrani, the Saudi air force officer, prime accused in the Florida Naval Air Station shooting in December 2019.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 11:48 AM IST

The US government has accessed an iPhone of a terrorist involved in December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, without any help from Apple despite repeated requests. In a media briefing, US Attorney General William Barr said that Mohammed Alshamrani, the Saudi air force officer accused of killing three classmates and injuring eight others at Florida Naval Air Station on December 6 was affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Alshamrani shot one of his two iPhones, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wanted to examine but Apple refused once again, reports NBCNews. “Apple’s decision has dangerous consequences for public safety and national security and is, in my judgment, unacceptable,” Barr said on Monday.

The FBI director Chris Wray credited technical skill of the agency in accessing the iPhone “We received effectively no help from Apple,” said Wray. According to Forbes, the FBI has spent $72,150 on GrayKey technology in April that can break through Apple encryption and get data. The agency has spent over $1 million on the technology that costs $15,000-$30,000 for a license.

Apple earlier defended its stance on hardware encryption, as the FBI asked the Cupertino-based giant to unlock two iPhones owned by the Florida shooter. “Building back doors into encryption is not the way we are going to solve those issues,” Jane Horvath, Apple’s Senior Director of Global Privacy, said in January this year. Apple also denied FBI access to an iPhone belonging to the shooter in San Bernardino terror attack in 2016. The FBI had to pay professional hackers to break into the device.




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US President Donald Trump Slams Apple for Not Unlocking iPhones in FBI Probe

US President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday and accused Apple of refusing to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements. Trump tweeted from his handle @realDonaldTrump: “We are helping Apple all of the time on trade and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements.” “They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, ‘NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN’,” Trump wrote.

Trump’s remarks came after US Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday declared the Florida naval airbase attack by a Saudi cadet as an act of ‘jihadist terror’. Twenty-one members of the Saudi military are being expelled from the US after a cadet carried out a mass shooting at the airbase last month. Barr said the cadets were found to have had jihadist material and indecent images of children in their possession.

Three sailors were killed and eight were wounded in the December 6 attack by a gunman identified as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. Training for Saudi servicemen was put on hold in the US after the attack. On Monday, Barr said he had asked Apple to unlock two iPhones that belonged to the gunman, who was killed by police in the attack. The gunman fired a bullet into one phone in an effort to destroy it, Barr said, but FBI investigators were able to restore the device.

“We have asked Apple for their help in unlocking the shooter’s iPhones. So far Apple has not given us any substantive assistance,” Barr said. Apple had given FBI iCloud data from the attacker’s online account but refused to unlock the phone, saying it would undermine their own encryption software.

The tech firm has clashed previously with the FBI over requests to unlock iPhones belonging to terror suspects. A similar 2016 clash was resolved when the FBI found a way to unlock a phone belonging to a mass shooter in California without help from Apple.