Apple ordered to help FBI break into iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter

Apple ordered to help FBI break into iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter

In a Tuesday ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ordered tech giant Apple to provide "reasonable technical assistance" to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in extracting data from the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook -- one of the shooters involved in the December terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.

The ruling by Judge Sheri Pym marks the latest court verdict against a tech company which is at loggerheads with law enforcement over encryption. Apple's iOS mobile operating system has, for years, provided iPhone users with a security mechanism which gives them password-based and remote data wipe options. In addition, with the iOS 8 version, the company has further expanded the security options for iOS device owners by offering end-to-end encryption.

Though encryption is a key reason behind a long-running dispute between tech companies - like Apple - and law enforcement authorities, Judge Sheri Pym's Tuesday ruling requires Apple to provide specialized software to enable law enforcement officials to break into Farook's iPhone 5C handset by circumventing the device's built-in security mechanism.

The ruling comes within a week of FBI director James Comey's disclosure -- at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- that law enforcement technicians have not been able to gain access to information stored on an iPhone used by Farook.

Comey said at the hearing: "We still have one of those killers' phones that we haven't been able to open. It has been two months now and we are still working on it."

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