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Move over, FBI — the LAPD hacked an iPhone 5S in a murder case

lapd unlocks iphone in jace trial apple 5s rear camera angle
While the FBI was busy badgering Apple to create a backdoor into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department managed to break into a locked iPhone 5S, according to LA Times.

The iPhone belonged to the deceased wife of The Shield actor Michael Jace. The actor is accused of killing his wife, April Jace, at their Los Angeles home in 2014. Court papers received by the Times say investigators found a way to break into the iPhone 5S thanks to a “forensic cellphone expert” who bypassed the lock function.

The police believe the two had an argument via text message but couldn’t access the iPhone as it was locked. Law enforcement agencies around the world are having trouble getting into these devices due to widespread default encryption adoption. Police and authorities believe to these devices can help provide evidence for many investigations, but cell phone makers like Apple are producing smartphones encrypted by default.

Apple refused to comply with the court order demanding a tool to defeat encryption on the iPhone in the San Bernardino case. The Cupertino company believes that, in the wrong hands, this tool could jeopardize the security and privacy of all its customers.

It’s unclear what version April Jace’s iPhone was running, but it calls into question why the FBI was having so much trouble getting into the shooter’s iPhone 5C. The iPhone 5C is an earlier model than the 5S, and doesn’t have Secure Enclave, which adds an additional layer of security on the device.

The search warrant that detailed this information was issued on March 18, 10 days before the FBI dropped the San Bernardino case against Apple. The FBI dropped the case after an anonymous group of hackers successfully hacked the phone — and the FBI paid under $1 million for the technique. This technique only works on the iPhone 5C.

Jace is currently awaiting trial.

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