The Feds have revealed the FBI has managed to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino gunman without Apple’s help, ending a court case.
Apple had been resisting a court order issued last month requiring the company to write new software to allow officials to access Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone.
However, officials have announced on March 28 that it had been accessed independently and asked for the order to be withdrawn.
Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife killed 14 in San Bernardino, California, in December.
They were later shot dead by police.
The FBI said it needed access to the phone’s data to determine if the attackers worked with others, were targeting others and were supported by others.
According to officials, Syed Rizwan Farook’s wife, Tashfeen Malik, had pledged allegiance to ISIS on social media on the day of the shooting.
Last week, prosecutors said “an outside party” had demonstrated a possible way of unlocking the iPhone without the need to seek Apple’s help.
A court hearing with Apple was postponed at the request of the justice department, while it investigated new ways of accessing the phone.
At the time, Apple said it did not know how to gain access, and said it hoped that the government would share with them any vulnerabilities of the iPhone that might come to light.
On March 28, a statement by Eileen Decker, the top federal prosecutor in California, said investigators had received the help of “a third party”, but did not specify who that was.
Investigators had “a solemn commitment to the victims of the San Bernardino shooting”, Eileen Decker said.
“It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with co-operation from relevant parties, or through the court system when co-operation fails,” the statement added.
Responding to the move, Apple said: “From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.”
Apple said it would “continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated”.
An Israeli newspaper last week reported that data forensics experts at cybersecurity firm Cellebrite, which has its headquarters in Israel, are involved in the case.
Cellebrite website, however, states that one of its tools can extract and decode data from the iPhone 5C, the model in question, among other locked handsets.
The court order had led to a vigorous debate over privacy, with Apple receiving support from other tech giants including Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.
FBI director James Comey said it was the “hardest question” he had tackled in his job.
However, James Comey said, law enforcement saved lives, rescued children and prevented terror attacks using search warrants that gave it access to information on mobile phones.
Police have found bomb equipment, weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition at San Bernardino shooters’ home.
The attackers killed 14 people and wounded 21 at San Bernardino’s Inland Regional Center in California.
Authorities still have not found a motive in the attack by Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27.
According to police, the attack indicated there had been “some degree of planning”.
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said it appeared that the duo was prepared to carry out another attack.
“There was obviously a mission here. We know that. We do not know why. We don’t know if this was the intended target or if there was something that triggered him to do this immediately,” said David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles office.
In the shootout with police hours after the attack, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik fired 76 rounds of ammunition at the officers and the officers fired 380 rounds back.
Two police officers were injured during the pursuit.
San Bernardino attack marks the deadliest mass shooting in the US since 26 people were killed at a school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
Authorities are expected to start releasing the names of the victims on December 3.
President Barack Obama said the FBI had taken over the investigation from local authorities.
“It is possible that this was terrorist-related, but we don’t know. It’s also possible that this was workplace-related,” he said.
“We’re going to have to search ourselves as a society to make sure we can take basic steps that would make it harder – not impossible, but harder – for individuals to get access to weapons.”
Law enforcement officials are also looking at possible “co-conspirators” and have been in touch with the suspects’ relatives.
Syed Rizwan Farook, who was born in the US, was not “on the radar” of law enforcement, Jarrod Burguan said.
He worked for the past five years as a restaurant inspector for the San Bernardino County Health Department. The Los Angeles Times reported that co-workers said he was a devout Muslim but rarely discussed his religion.
He and Tashfeen Malik were recently married and had a six-month-old baby, who they dropped off at its grandmother’s house before the attack.
On December 2, Syed Rizwan Farook and his colleagues were attending a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center.
Co-worker Patrick Baccari said he was sitting at the same table as Syed Farook before he abruptly left, leaving his coat.
Wearing military-style clothing and armed with assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns, Syed Farook returned with Tashfeen Malik a short time later to open fire.
When the shooting started, Patrick Baccari took refuge in a bathroom and was hurt when shrapnel sliced through the wall.
Police have named two suspects killed after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, left 14 people dead at a social services center.
The man and woman, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, were killed in an exchange of fire with police.
Syed Rizwan Farook had been a San Bernardino public health employee for five years, police chief Jarrod Burguan said.
The attack took place at an event on December 2 for Syed Rizwan Farook’s colleagues. None of the victims has been identified.
The Inland Regional Center, where the shooting took place, provides services for people with developmental disabilities, but the shooting appeared to be unrelated to its clients.
The incident marks the deadliest mass shooting in the US since 26 people were killed at a school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
Jarrod Burguan, who said another 17 people were wounded, said police were “reasonably confident” that there were just two shooters.
A third person seen running from the scene was detained, but police said it was unclear whether that person was involved.
Both suspects were killed in their vehicle after a shoot-out with police involving 20 officers. A tip-off had earlier led police to a house in nearby Redlands.
The dead man and woman were believed to be a couple, the police chief said. They were armed with assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns and wore military-style clothing.
According to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), two of the four guns recovered were linked to “an individual associated with this investigation”. They are investigating the origin of the other two guns.
One police officer was injured, but his injuries are not life threatening.
Three possible explosive devices were found at the Inland Regional Center, where the shooting took place.
Jarrod Burguan said that Syed Rizwan Farook had left the event – which was possibly a holiday party for employees or a meeting – “under some circumstances that were described as angry,” and returned with Tashfeen Malik.
Earlier, the FBI said it was not ruling out the possibility of terrorism but the situation was still being investigated.
San Bernardino is a city of about 200,000 people, 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
The attack took place in a conference area where the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health was holding a social event, said Maybeth Field, the center’s president.
Syed Rizwan Farook, who was born in the US, worked for the county as an environmental health specialist, police said. They had no information on whether he had a criminal record, nor further details on Tashfeen Malik.
Colleagues told the Los Angeles Times that Syed Rizwan Farook had traveled to Saudi Arabia and returned with a new wife. The couple had a young baby, they said.
His brother-in-law, Farhan Khan, told a press conference he had “absolutely no idea” what could have prompted the shooting.
The mass shooting comes just days after three people were killed at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic.
President Barack Obama said in response to San Bernardino shooting: “One thing we do know is that we have a pattern of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere in the world.
“There are some steps that we could take, not to eliminate all incidents, but to make sure they happen less frequently.”