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Justice Department Ends NY Fight With Apple After Accessing iPhone

by Phil Helsel /  / Updated 
epa05234176 (FILE) A file picture dated 23 February 2016 shows a security guard patrolling in front of an Apple Store before a small rally in support of the company's privacy policy in New York, New York, USA. The US Justice Department said on 28 March 2016, that the FBI had accessed the iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack last December and will not need the help of Apple to unblock the device. The news comes a week after a California court hearing at which Apple and the government were scheduled to appear was cancelled as federal authorities requested its postponement to test a possible way to access the iPhone. The move came after federal officials said that an unidentified third party came forward and demonstrated a possible method to accessing a locked iPhone, media reported. The announcement brings to an end a confrontation between the government and Apple that erupted when federal Judge Sheri Pym in mid-February ordered the tech giant to help the FBI access the information on the phone of the shooter, who - with his wife - killed 14 people in what is being investigated as a terrorist attack. Apple had refused to agree to the government's requests, after claiming that doing so would put the security of all iPhones in jeopardy. EPA/JUSTIN LANEJUSTIN LANE / EPA

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The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday it no longer needs Apple’s help unlocking the iPhone of a suspected New York drug dealer, ending a battle that touched on a struggle between law enforcement and the tech giant over access to locked devices.

"Yesterday evening, an individual provided the passcode to the iPhone at issue in this case,” U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers said in a letter to the court dated Friday. "Late last night, the government used that passcode by hand and gained access to the iPhone.”

Related: Government Says It Got Data Off Terrorist's iPhone Without Apple

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A federal judge in Brooklyn in February ruled against the government in its motion to compel Apple to unlock the phone of a convicted drug dealer.

The Justice Department did not identify in the letter the individual who provided the passcode.

The government was embroiled in a high-profile fight with Apple over access to the locked phone of San Bernardino mass shooter Syed Farook, but it ended up using a software tool to get into his phone.

Related: FBI's iPhone Hack Works on 'Narrow Slice of Phones': James Comey

The FBI paid $1 million for the software solution allowing them to get into Farook’s phone.

The government has said in court filings that method would not work in the Brooklyn case, and on April 8 signaled its intent to sue Apple to access the phone in the case.

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