The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed today that it has found a working method for unlocking the iPhone belonging to Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters. Thus, the biggest tech court case in years ends prematurely with a whimper. The method — which was brought to light just hours before the first hearing — is not specified, but the fact that it came from outside Apple complete dismantles the FBI’s own argument that only Apple could help them unlock the phone.
Still, there are a few major takeaways from this case. The first is that this type of fight over encryption and mobile-device access will happen again (in fact, it’s already happening in dozens of criminal investigations). As tech companies step up their encryption mechanisms, law enforcement will continue trying to build a legal precedent for backdoor methods.
Hand in hand with this case’s resolution is the manner in which it was resolved: The FBI broke security on an iPhone. That’s not good! It is not a very fun or encouraging thing to find out that the government can access devices that you once considered secure. I bet Apple is gonna have a fun time building a PR campaign to reestablish how secure their devices are.
And speaking of PR, this whole case was embarrassing for the FBI, which learned that, rather than publicly attempting to gain legal access to millions of phones at once, maybe they should just take their work over to the NSA instead.