(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) — The Apple ID passcode for the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone was changed less than 24 hours after authorities took possession of the device, a senior Apple executive said Friday.
And Apple could have recovered information from the phone had the Apple ID passcode not been changed, Apple said.
If the phone was taken to a location where it recognized the Wi-Fi network, such as the San Bernardino shooters’ home, it could have been backed up to the cloud, Apple suggested.
But it is not entirely clear from Apple’s court filing that the phone was in the hands of the authorities when the change was made.
The filing states “the owner, in an attempt to gain access to some information in the hours after the attack, was able to reset the password remotely, but that had the effect of eliminating the possibility of an auto-backup.”
The government got a warrant to search the car and get the phone in the early morning hours of Dec. 3, 2015 at 2:27 a.m. — the day after the attack.
The attempt to reset the password could have been an attempt to use the “Find My iPhone” feature to locate it, sources noted.
The phone was in possession of federal investigators at the time of the remote passcode was reset, a federal official confirmed to ABC News.
The development comes as the Justice Department is pushing forward with its legal fight against Apple, urging a federal judge to compel the tech giant to help the FBI crack open a cellphone left behind by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters.
Syed Farook, who along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, launched a deadly assault on Dec. 2, 2015, killing 14 of Farook’s coworkers at a holiday party.
Prosecutors said Farook’s device could be encrypted to the point that its content would be “permanently inaccessible,” and, “Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search.”
After the court order, Apple quickly vowed to challenge the decision.
“The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement to customers Tuesday night. “[T]his order … has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”
“The FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on [the shooter’s] iPhone,” Cook added. “In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”
In addition, all of the personal and sensitive information on customers’ phones “needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission,” Cook wrote.
If the battle between the FBI and Apple continues, it’s a matter that could work its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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