FBI not sure it can unlock iPhone in Arkansas homicide

FBI not sure it can unlock iPhone in Arkansas homicide
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The FBI is unsure it will be able to help Arkansas law enforcement unlock an iPhone and iPod at the center of a homicide case, The Associated Press reported Thursday evening.

The bureau didn’t rule out its assistance but said it had not yet examined the devices.

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"At the time of the request, no information was provided regarding the device models or operating systems, so FBI Little Rock was not able to state if they would be able to provide assistance,” the agency said in a statement to the AP. “The FBI does not currently have possession of the devices.”

The comments come a day after Arkansas said the FBI had agreed to help hack an iPhone and iPod used by two teens accused of killing an older couple.

The case is being closely watched as it comes on the heels of the FBI announcing it had been able to hack into an iPhone used by one of shooters in the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attack.

The FBI had previously claimed such a hack was impossible without Apple’s help, even seeking a court order compelling the tech giant to assist.

The bureau’s success has raised questions about what other devices it may now be able to access. Police have hundreds of seized iPhones around the country they would like to access.

The Arkansas request was quickly taken up as the potential first test case of the FBI’s method, although it was not clear the same tactic would work for the devices in the homicide case.

“The FBI's handling of this request is not related to the San Bernardino matter,” the agency said.

The Justice Department has only confirmed that the method used to hack the San Bernardino 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.”

After hacking the San Bernardino phone, the Justice Department withdrew a court order seeking Apple’s help, ending a what many thought would be a protracted court battle.