Attacker’s phone possibly accessible without Apple help

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By Brandon Bailey and Amanda Lee Myers

The government has been adamant for weeks: FBI investigators need to unlock an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers, and Apple Inc. was the only one that could do it.

In a stunning reversal on Monday, federal prosecutors asked a judge to halt a much-anticipated hearing on their efforts to force Apple to unlock the phone. The FBI may have found another way, and Apple’s cooperation may no longer be needed, according to court papers filed late Monday, less than 24 hours before Tuesday’s hearing.

“An outside party” came forward over the weekend and showed the FBI a possible method to access the data on Syed Rizwan Farook’s encrypted phone, according to the filing.

“Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone,” the filing said. “If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple.”

If it’s viable, that also means the government has significantly undermined its arguments against Apple, said Kristen Eichensehr, a visiting law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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