The FBI has had three weeks to examine the unlocked iPhone belonging to San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, and U.S. law enforcement officials are finally ready to say whether they were able to find anything of use on the handset.
The answer? Not much. Although that’s not the way they’re presenting it.
According to officials, the iPhone didn’t contain data the FBI wasn’t in possession of previously, although it did help answer a few of the remaining questions in the ongoing investigation. For example, FBI investigators now believe that the pair of shooters involved with the fatal killings didn’t have any additional help from friends and family.
The iPhone did not contain evidence of contacts with other supporters of ISIS, or any encrypted communications that may help the FBI. In other words, it’s the absence of certain information that’s useful — or that’s how it’s being spun at least.
Multiple sources had suggested the iPhone was unlikely to yield any valuable data. For instance, San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan — who was part of the initial San Bernardino shooting investigation last December — previously acknowledged that, “I think that there is a reasonably good chance that there is nothing of any value on the phone.”
The FBI initially tried to get Apple to unlock the iPhone 5c at the center of this case, although Apple refused. The FBI then turned to third-party sources to help it hack the handset. Although we originally thought the successful party was Israeli-tech firm Cellebrite — which was paid a $15,000 sum for its troubles — more recently it has emerged that may instead have been a group of professional hackers who specialize in hunting for software vulnerabilities.
In terms of the FBI’s freshly-reported findings, officials say that data is still being analysed and more leads are being followed.
Considering that the Feds would want to spin any possible results from this case as a positive, I can’t be the only one thinking this most certainly isn’t the result many in the government were looking for as they try to push through new anti-encryption bills?