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FBI unlocks Pensacola shooter's iPhone, confirms link with Al Qaeda

FBI says iPhone encryption policy is unacceptable, noting that national security is above big corporations.

  • Updated: May 19, 2020 2:44 PM IST
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The history of cross-statements between Apple and the FBI goes back several years. While the Cupertino company does not provide access to its devices such as the iPhone in the investigation of crimes., the US feds have always ended up turning to third parties for assistance. It appears that they have succeeded once again. Privacy and security are two elements that are always connecting in one way or another, but that sometimes cannot coexist. Apple has closed security protocols on its iPhones that allow you to save any data on the devices safely. Making it impossible to access them without the user’s permission. Also Read - Apple Glasses might come earlier than expected, may launch in 2021

This privacy is superimposed on all occasions for security reasons, even for an instance, when a criminal is arrested. And when security agents need to have access to their mobile to obtain more information linking to the case, Apple refuses to help. Not for being against the investigations, but for preserving the privacy of the iPhone. Also Read - Ubisoft sues Apple and Google for selling a Rainbow Six Siege clone in their stores

The FBI has tried to intervene several iPhones in recent years, asking Apple for help in doing so and always finding a brick wall when it comes to accessing terminal information. That is why they have had to resort to tedious and expensive systems that take advantage of some vulnerability to access the system. Also Read - Apple acquires Virtual Reality startup NextVR

FBI vs Apple, a new dispute

Now, a new drawback arises between the two organizations, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have criticized Apple for resisting to help in the investigation of the Dec. 6, 2019 shooting at the Pensacola, Florida Naval Air Station. During the incident, three US sailors were killed and eight others were injured.

According to the source, the FBI detained Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the man responsible for the attack. The shooting carried out by this man at a naval air base was claimed by Al-Qaeda shortly after it occurred. The FBI, as it happens in all these cases, intervened fully in the investigation. At one point, they asked Apple for access to the iPhone 5 and iPhone 7 that this man owned. However, the company only provided some iCloud data without giving full access to the devices.

“Thanks to the great work of the FBI, and no thanks to Apple. We were able to unlock Alshamrani’s phones,” said US Attorney General, William Barr, in a press conference yesterday on the progress of the case. Following this attack, Alshamrani attempted to destroy the two phones with which he allegedly contacted terrorists.

“The phones contained important information that definitively established Alshamrani’s significant ties to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” authorities say. The Attorney General further criticized Apple for refusing to help, noting that national security is above big corporations.

The findings

The assigned agents found that Alshamrani and his Al Qaeda partners communicated through encrypted applications. Plans for the US attack began in 2015, for which he teamed up with the Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force to carry out a “special operation.”

“In the months leading up to the December 6, 2019 attack, in the United States. Alshamrani had specific conversations with AQAP associates abroad about plans and tactics,” the report states without elaborating. Authorities note that accessing the information on the phones helped other investigations. Including an action against Abdullah al-Maliki, one of Alshamrani’s partners, in Yemen.

This is not the first time that Apple has refused to help federal authorities obtain information from cell phones. Since, in 2015, it refused to unlock the iPhone 5C of one of the attackers in San Bernardino, California.

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  • Published Date: May 19, 2020 2:41 PM IST
  • Updated Date: May 19, 2020 2:44 PM IST