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Apple walks free as FBI hacks San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone with help from third-party

The FBI has said it has managed to access the data stored in the iPhone 5C used by San Bernardino terrorist attack accused Syed Farook with help from third party sources with Apple playing no part in it. With this, government sources said they will be withdrawing all court proceeding against Apple that initially sought to compel the company into assisting the security agency to unlock the iPhone 5C.

This also makes for a strange twist to the otherwise high-profile court case even though things haven’t exactly proceeded along unexpected lines. It might also come as a bit of embarrassment for Apple that so far has been seen as the ultimate to champion the cause of user’s privacy.

The court case had quickly snowballed into a major controversy with almost all major tech companies expressing their support to Apple and the greater privacy issue that it stood for. Now with the FBI managing to crack the particular iPhone 5C, question do arise whether the iPhone is as secure as its makers would like us to believe they are.

However, while the particular court case might have come to an end, the wider debate that it had kicked off continue to rage far and wide, that of security vs. privacy and which should precede over the other and in what situations.

Apple had staunchly denied complying with the government request that sought it to develop means to seek access to all that might be stored in the iPhone 5C used by the terror accused.

“Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy,” Apple said in a statement. “Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk.”

Apple further added they would continue to assist the security agencies in the investigation as they have done all along.

“This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy,” said Apple in a statement even though it also stated: “This case should never have been brought.”

Apple argued complying with the government’s request to create a backdoor access on the particular iPhone 5C would have created a precedent leading to numerous such request to crack open other iPhone devices involved in other cases of criminal controversies.

“The San Bernardino case was not about trying to send a message or set a precedent; it was and is about fully investigating a terrorist attack,” FBI Director James Comey had earlier revealed.

The court case has also led to the wider debate if the legal system needs to be re-laid all over again while taking into account the advancement in technology in recent times and the wider security risk that it poses in the hand of tech-savvy criminals.

The agencies right now are relying on the ‘All Writs Act’ which they can invoke to force companies to assist government agencies in discharging their official duties. Apple argued the act was drafted 227 years ago and does not consider the huge technological advances that have happened ever since. Agencies have also cried foul that the new age technology has been making it increasingly difficult for them to engage in wiretapping, a very popular means that the sleuths had relied on to spy on suspects.

FBI has however refused to divulge any details of the agency that helped it to crack open the iPhone 5C. They are also holding back on whether the same hack would work on other iPhone devices as well. The Israel-based company Cellebrite that specialises in data extracting from electronic devices are being considered to have helped FBI in hacking the iPhone 5C belonging to Farook though neither party has confirmed the rumors so far.