The battle between the FBI and tech companies investing billions of dollars in security systems that make their devices more difficult to hack has seen a new episode.
The FBI forced 28-year-old Grant Michalski in Columbus, Ohio to unlock an iPhone with his face in order to look for data that may have served as evidence in a child abuse investigation. The device was protected with Face ID, Apple’s facial recognition system that replaces Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
The police searched the house of the suspect and agent David Knight specifically requested the suspect to put his face in front of the iPhone in order to get access to the data stored on the device.
As reported by Forbes, some incriminatory evidence was indeed discovered, including Kik conversations that the suspect participated in. One of the chats was made with an undercover officer.
However, the FBI wasn’t capable of extracting all information on the iPhone because the passcode wasn’t provided, so the report indicates that the agency turned to Cellebrite to hack the device. However, no info has been obtained, it seems.
The backdoor dispute
Cellebrite is one of the companies that helped law enforcement break into encrypted smartphones and extract the data. Grayshift, a third-party firm that developed an iPhone hacking device, has also worked together with US authorities on accessing encrypted information even if the passcode wasn’t offered.
The FBI has long called for tech companies to provide investigators with a way to access data stored on devices that are involved in criminal cases, but most of them, including Apple, opposed on privacy grounds.
The Cupertino-based iPhone maker refused to help the FBI break into the iPhone used by the San Bernardino terrorist back in 2016, with the agency eventually turning to an unnamed party that helped extract the data. Since then, FBI officials have repeatedly called backdoors in smartphones and the dispute is yet to come to a conclusion.