FBI agrees to hack iPhone in Arkansas homicide case

FBI agrees to hack iPhone in Arkansas homicide case
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The FBI has agreed to hack into the locked iPhone at the center of an Arkansas homicide case, The Associated Press reported.

The move indicates the FBI may be able to use a recently discovered vulnerability to widely access secure iPhones in police custody.


In the Arkansas case, two teenagers are accused of killing a couple. On Tuesday, local police and the prosecuting attorney asked the FBI for assistance opening an iPhone and an iPod used by the two teens. The FBI agreed on Wednesday afternoon, according to the AP.

A judge in the case has postponed the trial of one of the teenagers to give the FBI time to help.

The FBI’s decision comes just days after the bureau revealed it had been shown a way to crack the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two shooters in the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attack that left 14 people dead.

The FBI had previously said it could only access the phone with Apple's help.

The Justice Department would only confirm that the method used to hack Farook’s phone worked on that one phone, an iPhone 5c running a version of Apple’s iOS 9 operating system.

“It’s premature to say anything about our ability to access other phones at this point,” a law enforcement official told reporters on Monday.

But, the official added, “We intend to continue assisting [state and local officials] in appropriate cases.”

The Arkansas case could be the first assistance using the new hacking method. Authorities have not said what type of iPhone and iPod are at the center of the Arkansas case.

The prosecutors in Arkansas have had the iPhone since last July, when the teens were arrested in the shooting deaths of Robert and Patricia Cogdell. The iPod was handed over to prosecutors last week.

Authorities believe at least one of the suspects used the device to discuss the homicide plans, the AP reported.

The FBI’s assistance is likely to raise concerns among privacy advocates, who have chastised the bureau for not revealing its hacking methods to Apple.

They argue that by withholding the previously undiscovered vulnerability, the FBI is putting millions of iPhone users’ security at risk and leaving them exposed to nefarious hackers.