FBI asks Apple to help unlock iPhones of suspected Navy base shooter, report says



CEO Tim Cook has championed strong encryption and Apple’s efforts to protect customer data. 


The FBI has reportedly asked Apple to help unlock two iPhones
that may have belonged to Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the suspected gunman in a shooting at a Florida Navy base last month that left three people dead. In a letter sent Monday to Apple’s general counsel, the FBI said it has court permission to search the phones but investigators have so far been unable to guess the passcodes, according to NBC News. Both iPhones are reportedly passcode protected. 

Apple has tussled with the FBI before over unlocking devices. Back in 2016, Apple resisted the FBI’s attempt to force the company to unlock an iPhone used by a terrorist, setting up a legal battle between security and privacy. However, the FBI found a third party to unlock the phone and the case largely faded from public debate. A separate case in New York that involved a confessed drug dealer ended in a similar fashion, with the FBI dropping its request for Apple’s help after finding another way into the iPhone.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the FBI’s investigation of the naval base shooting but told NBC News it works cooperatively with law enforcement. 

“When the FBI requested information from us relating to this case a month ago, we gave them all of the data in our possession,” Apple said in a statement to NBC News. 

The FBI has also sought help from other federal agencies, experts from other countries and “familiar contacts in the third-party vendor community” to unlock Alshamrani’s iPhones, according to NBC News.

The FBI declined to comment. 

Originally published Jan. 7, 6:10 a.m. PT.
Update, 6:25 a.m.: Adds more background.


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