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FBI to help unlock an iPhone in Arkansas murder case

Just days after the FBI, possibly through a third party, successfully hacked into the iPhone linked to one of the San Bernardino terrorists, the government agency is expanding upon its new-found abilities, this time in Arkansas. Officials have promised to aid a local prosecutor in his attempts to unlock an iPhone and an iPod that belong to two teens accused of murdering a couple in Conway, postponing the impending trial by a few months.

According to Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland, the federal agency approved his request on Wednesday afternoon, and it seems that the FBI has received a number of similar requests since first cracking the San Bernardino device. The ability to bypass Apple’s security has been at the heart of an ongoing privacy debate between tech companies and the American government, and despite the agency’s success in unlocking an iPhone without its maker’s help, the issue remains a contentious one. 

The FBI has yet to disclose just how it managed to get into the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone, and it is unclear whether the same technique will be applied in Arkansas. Regardless, Hiland says, any help is appreciated. “We always appreciate [the FBI’s] cooperation and willingness to help their local law enforcement partners,” he said.

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According to prosecutors, the Apple devices will be key to the state’s case, with recorded phone conversations with one of the suspects, 15-year-old Justin Staton, allegedly indicating his involvement in the crime. The Associated Press reports that the teen used his “iPod to communicate about the homicide plans and that there may be other evidence on the device.”

As for other cases, another district attorney in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has also submitted a request for the FBI’s help in unlocking an iPhone owned by a murder victim. The FBI has yet to make a decision in this particular case.