Apple says it reached out to FBI to assist with Texas mass murderer’s iPhone

“Apple says it ‘immediately’ offered to help the FBI in the wake of Sunday’s Texas church massacre after the agency said it was unable to unlock the shooter’s encrypted smartphone,” Karma Allen reports for ABC News. “The FBI has refused to identify the make and model of the phone used by the suspected shooter, Devin Kelley, but sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News the device in question is an Apple product.”

“‘Our team immediately reached out to the FBI after learning from their press conference on Tuesday that investigators were trying to access a mobile phone,’ Apple said in a statement Wednesday. ‘We offered assistance and said we would expedite our response to any legal process they send us,'” Allen reports. “‘We work with law enforcement every day. We offer training to thousands of agents so they understand our devices and how they can quickly request information from Apple,’ the statement added.”

Allen reports, “On Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Christopher Combs said the agency sent a phone belonging to Kelley to its Quantico, Virginia crime lab because authorities could not unlock it.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: This is, of course, not about breaking into a locked iPhone. This is about expediting any court order to retrieve whatever, if anything, is backed up in iCloud.

FBI may have lost critical time unlocking Texas mass murderer’s Apple iPhone – November 8, 2017
FBI unable to access Texas mass murder’s locked phone – November 7, 2017
Apple CEO Cook tweets condolences for victims of mass murder in First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas – November 6, 2017
Tim Cook’s refusal to create iPhone backdoor for FBI vindicated by ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack on Windows PCs – May 15, 2017
Bungling Microsoft singlehandedly proves that ‘backdoors’ are a stupid idea – August 10, 2016
U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu says strong encryption without backdoors is a ‘national security priority’ – April 29, 2016
iPhone backdoors would pose a threat, French privacy chief warns – April 8, 2016
The U.S. government’s fight with Apple could backfire big time – March 14, 2016
Obama pushes for iPhone back door; Congressman Issa blasts Obama’s ‘fundamental lack of understanding’ – March 12, 2016
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch backs U.S. government overreach on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – March 11, 2016
Former CIA Director: FBI wants to dictate iPhone’s operating system – March 11, 2016
FBI warns it could demand Apple’s iPhone code and secret electronic signature – March 10, 2016
California Democrat Diane Feinstein backs U.S. government overreach over Apple – March 10, 2016
Snowden: U.S. government’s claim it can’t unlock San Bernardino iPhone is ‘bullshit’ – March 10, 2016
Apple could easily lock rights-trampling governments out of future iPhones – February 20, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook lashes out at Obama administration over encryption, bemoans White House lack of leadership – January 13, 2016
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013


  1. Apple can access iCloud backups of iPhones, but not everybody backs up their iPhone to iCloud. I suspect that the main reason why people don’t do it is because they don’t want to pay monthly fees.

    Apple could go some way to defuse this issue with the FBI if they made it the default for iPhones to automatically back up to iCloud. Of course in order to do that, Apple would need to give users a free data allowance which was at least equal to the capacity of their iPhone. They could devise a way for a suitable amount of dedicated iCloud storage to be made available when you buy an iPhone and if users wanted to use iCloud for additional reasons then they would pay a monthly charge in the way that we currently do.

    1. That’s a pretty terrible suggestion, if you are interested in user privacy.

      As was written about this story in The Verge, “…the FBI appears to be using this situation as another opportunity to paint the iPhone as antagonist to law enforcement procedures, in an apparent effort to drum up support for weakening tech industry encryption.”

      1. The whole point of my suggestion is to offer a way for Apple to maintain true encryption on devices, but still permit access to those backups when an official court order is received. There is going to be increasing political pressure on Apple to provide a backdoor and this would be a middle course which would counter many of those arguments. The alternative is likely to be some ill-thought out law devised by politicians with zero understanding of what they are talking about. I see it as the lesser of two evils.

        I’m not aware of any cases where hackers have broken into Apple’s iCloud backups ( other than social engineering techniques where they manage to get people’s account details and passwords ). I would have thought that Apple would encrypt iCloud backups in a way that only the user or Apple can decrypt, so hackers would not be able to access worthwhile data, even if they gained access to the files.

        There are obvious downsides to all likely solutions, but making iCloud backups nearly universally used would offer added value to most customers while allowing access to data in cases like this. Those who felt that their privacy must never be compromised would always have the option of turning off that feature, but the point would be that most users would not choose to do so and there would not be such a huge backlog of locked iPhones in law enforcement offices in connection with low-level crimes.

        Those who want to hide their tracks and their data would always find other ways to do it anyway. Having any cellphone already compromises your privacy, having a smartphone does so dramatically more.

    1. If Apple only holds a part of the ‘key’/factor to unlock a device via multifactor (3+)authentication, it may be possible to have a system that is secure yet accessible when needed. No one or two groups other than the owner can open a device on their own, including Apple.

  2. What about stuff that is just synced through their service, like iCloud Photo Library, healthkit data, etc. Aren’t those keys kept by the device? It’s ONLY iCloud backups that they can ‘break’ right? I also thought Apple was working on not even being able to get into backups…

  3. Oh it gets better and better and yes mike they could have used the dead man’s finger could to unlock the device as long as it was used within 48 hours and it had not been powered down and restarted.

    1. Even if you try it within the 48 hours and it hasn’t been powered down, you only get five attempts before it gets locked, but most people have ten digits, so it’s not a guaranteed strategy. Furthermore there is no way of knowing if the fingerprint unlock system was even set up on that particular phone.

      One risk for law enforcement officers in not powering down a suspect’s iPhone is that an accomplice could remotely wipe that iPhone via the lost iPhone function. It would need to remain powered up and kept somewhere where there is no radio reception. It’s not hard to do that, but when you look at how many things officials get wrong, it’s yet another way they could screw up.

      1. This is the stuff I like to hear alanaudio, “it’s a risk” and one that the FBI should steer clear away from. Human kind is finally on the verge of having a personal private devices that are are just that, personal and private. Oh sure there will be situations like this that may want to make someone go in and look for more personal information, but that has to be compared to the incredible benefits of privacy has to advance humanity,

  4. I swear, first you have the USAF not reporting the guy’s record so he would be denied any purchase. Now, you have the idiots at the FBI not having enough sense to open the iPhone with the dead guy’s finger.

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