The government needs time to evaluate a third-party method that might eliminate Apple’s role.
The FBI might be able to unlock the iPhone in the San Bernardino terrorism case without Apple’s help, according to court documents filed Monday afternoon.
In the filing, a lawyer for the U.S. government wrote that the FBI had received assistance from a third party in developing an unlocking method.
On Sunday, an “outside party” demonstrated a method to unlock the killer’s iPhone that would “eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple,” according to the filing.
The FBI asked the judge to cancel Tuesday’s hearing on whether or not Apple should be required to assist, but said it would still need time to test the new method before it drops the request for help entirely.
“We must first test this method to ensure it doesn’t destroy the data on the phone, but we remain cautiously optimistic,” a U.S.
Department of Justice spokesperson told the LA Times.
Monday’s filing offers no clues as to what unlocking method the FBI is now considering.
The one-page memo said only that “others outside the U.S. government have continued to contact the U.S. government offering avenues of possible research.” It also said the government would update the court by April 5 as to the status of its unlocking efforts.
Multiple security experts, including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, have suggested that the FBI might not need Apple to unlock the terrorist’s iPhone.
But until today, the DOJ was adamant that Apple must assist, even arguing that unlocking the phone would be impossible without Apple’s help earlier this month.
In seeking to postpone Tuesday’s hearing, the government appears to be refocusing its efforts on gathering evidence in the San Bernadino case instead of fighting an ideological battle with Apple over whether or not private companies should be required to help it access encrypted data.