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FBI says it may have found a way to unlock shooter's iPhone

James Niccolai | March 23, 2016
Government lawyers have asked to postpone a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday

A key protection that the government is up against is a mechanism that will permanently lock the phone if an incorrect pass code is tried 10 times.

With cloning, multiple copies are made of the phone’s memory and pass codes are tried against each copy. It doesn’t matter if one copy becomes locked, because investigators can move on to another copy.

In essence, it gives the FBI multiple tries at guessing the pass code without having to worry about the phone destroying its data.

The method was brought up at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, when Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, suggested it could be used. But to date, no one has publicly demonstrated that it would work.

It's unknown if that's the method the government now plans to use, and other techniques may have been suggested as well.

Whatever method it is, the government now wants to postpone Tuesday's hearing until it can try it out. It suggests it will file a status report by April 5, when presumably it will reveal the outcome of its efforts. 

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Government lawyers said in the court filing that they contacted Apple to ask its position and that Apple’s lawyers requested a conference call with the court.


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