FBI wants Apple’s help to unlock iPhones used by suspected Pensacola shooter

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FBI wants Apple's help to unlock iPhones used by suspected Pensacola shooter
FBI wants Apple's help.
Photo: Dave Newman/Flickr CC

The FBI wants Apple to help unlock two iPhones owned by a man suspected of carrying out a fatal shooting attack. The shooting took place last month at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.

In a letter sent Monday, the FBI said it had been granted permission to search the phones belonging to Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. However, it has been unable to access them since they are password-protected.

“Investigators are actively engaging in efforts to ‘guess’ the relevant passcodes but so far have been unsuccessful,” stated the letter from FBI General Counsel Dana Boente. The letter continued that official were seeking help from experts. This includes “familiar contacts in the third-party vendor community.”

The FBI has sent the iPhones to its crime lab in Quantico, Virginia. One of the iPhones is damaged. They will remain there while the FBI figures out what to do next. A deputy killed Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani during the attack.

In a statement, Apple said that: “We have the greatest respect for law enforcement and have always worked cooperatively to help in their investigations. When the FBI requested information from us relating to this case a month ago, we gave them all of the data in our possession and we will continue to support them with the data we have available.”

FBI Pensacola unlocking case similar to earlier incident

If this FBI Pensacola iPhone unlocking case sounds familiar, it’s because it’s very close to one that happened a few years back. In December 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook carried out a shooting at an office party in San Bernardino, California. In the aftermath, the FBI asked Apple to help unlock it. Apple refused to comply with the FBI’s demands, citing the dangers of creating a backdoor in iOS.

This contentious topic divided public opinion. Lots of people took Apple’s side in the standoff. Mark Zuckerberg and WhatsApp founder Jan Koum were among the big names who sided with Apple. This was largely due to their concerns about attacks on end-to-end encryption. But Bill Gates and Larry Ellison came down on the other side of the issue.

Since then, Apple has received plenty of other requests to help unlock iPhones involved in investigations. None have become quite as heated as the Syed Rizwan Farook case, however.

Source: NBC News