FBI Reportedly Asks Apple to Help Unlock Passcode-Protected iPhones Used by Mass Shooter in Florida

In a letter sent late Monday to Apple's general counsel Katherine Adams, the FBI has asked Apple to help unlock two iPhones that investigators believe were owned by Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, who carried out a mass shooting at a Naval Air Station in Florida last month, according to NBC News.

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The report claims the iPhones are passcode protected, and one of them appears to be damaged by gunfire. In a statement to NBC News, Apple said it has already provided all of the data in its possession to the FBI:

We have the greatest respect for law enforcement and have always worked cooperatively to help in their investigations. When the FBI requested information from us relating to this case a month ago, we gave them all of the data in our possession and we will continue to support them with the data we have available.

Apple faced a similar situation in 2016, when a U.S. federal judge ordered the company to help the FBI unlock an iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino, California. Apple opposed the order, noting that it would set a "dangerous precedent" with security risks.

Apple's dispute with the FBI ended in just weeks after the U.S. government found an alternate way to access the data on the iPhone and withdrew the lawsuit.

Based on its statement, it appears that Apple will continue to take a hard line on refusing to unlock iPhones for the FBI.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Israeli firm Cellebrite assisted the FBI with unlocking the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, but Cellebrite has previously denied this claim.

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Top Rated Comments

SVTmaniac Avatar
57 months ago

When it comes to acts of terrorism and murder, Apple needs to comply in these situations. Period.
You can't pick and choose. It's all or none and I vote none.
Score: 70 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unami Avatar
57 months ago
It's disturbing that "a mass shooting" alteady seems like a very common occurence in the US - you've come far in the 20 years after Columbine. Maybe unlocked phones are not the solution to this problem...
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FaustsHausUK Avatar
57 months ago

When it comes to acts of terrorism and murder, Apple needs to comply in these situations. Period.
That hardline view is very noble, but to facilitate it, Apple has to make their devices less secure. Making devices less secure doesn't only aid the FBI and "good" actors; _anyone_ can exploit such loopholes. Then the story will be "iPhones are easy to hack," and nobody will trust Apple. Worse, nobody will have access to private communications.

Even ignoring that, do you really trust the government and law enforcement with such access? This country has a lousy track record of wrongful convictions, false arrests and badgering. So you've reduced your own privacy and made it easier for law enforcement to dig up dirt, but I can guarantee you the impact on terrorists and criminals will be nill. They always find a way.
Score: 42 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Juan007 Avatar
57 months ago
The corrupt (and impeached) Trump administration will use this case as a Trojan Horse to demand that Apple ship spyware on their phones. They already caught the guy, they know everything about him, does the FBI really need to know that he watched cat videos or played angry birds? Fortunately Tim Cook and Apple have seen this trick a million times before and have the backbone to stand up for their users. It's not about protecting criminals, it's about protecting ordinary Apple users from criminals such as the president.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Princejb134 Avatar
57 months ago
How about law enforcement goes back to investigating cases like the good old days before smart phones became a thing
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnasher729 Avatar
57 months ago
The problem is not Apple refusing to help or being willing to help, the problem is that iPhones are intentionally designed so that Apple cannot unlock them.

I remember in the 2016 case, the FBI played around with the phone they had to get access to the iCloud data and managed to make that inaccessible, so Apple could and probably would help them to get what they can get. Where Apple will be absolutely firm is to not change their design to be able to unlock phones.


With that said, I would hope that the security on my device is such that it is inaccessible to anybody other than myself, regardless of their ability.
Inaccessible to anybody other than yourself, and that obviously includes Apple.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)