US may be able to unlock iPhone, DOJ postpones Apple v. FBI hearing

The federal government is exploring a third-party method to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, which, if successful, could alter the course of the court proceedings between the FBI and Apple regarding encryption.

According to The New York Times, an "outside party" demonstrated to the FBI a potential method to unlock the encrypted iPhone, citing the federal prosecutors' court filing. "Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on [Syed Rizwan] Farook's iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple," according to the filing.

The Department of Justice asked to postpone a Tuesday court hearing over the encryption debate, and Judge Sheri N. Pym, the federal magistrate judge in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, granted the postponement, according to the report.

Using a third party to access the iPhone may delay the court proceedings, but NYT reports the issue won't be simply resolved. "This will only delay an inevitable fight over whether the government can force Apple to break the security of its devices," Alex Abdo, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, told NYT.

If this third party method does not work, though, then the case could reignite in the courtroom, according to the report.

The government has not named the third party that claims to be able to unlock the phone themselves, and investigators remain "cautiously optimistic" about their path forward, according to the report.

A senior Apple executive told NYT the company wants to know more about this third party claiming to break into the iPhone to learn about how other parties may be able to get around the phone's security.

The DOJ will file a status update by April 5.

More articles on Apple vs. FBI:

Perspective: What the Apple-FBI battle means for health data
Does the government need Apple's help unlocking an iPhone?
Apple, FBI & House hearing: How the standoff could result in an encryption precedent

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