The U.S. Justice Department said Monday it has accessed data on the iPhone used by a shooter in last year's San Bernardino, California attacks, and that it no longer needs Apple's help in cracking the device.
Government lawyers won a court order last month compelling Apple to help access the phone as part of the investigation into the mass shooting that left 14 people dead. But now with the government in possession of the data, it asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym to vacate her February order, which she did Monday.
Apple had been fighting the order that required it to write new software to disable passcode protection and allow access to the phone used by one of the shooters, Sayed Rizwan Farook.
A court hearing scheduled last week was postponed after the government said it needed time to test a third-party method that would not require Apple's aid. The Justice Department on Monday did not identify who helped it access the data or what method was used.
Law enforcement’s ability to unlock an iPhone through an alternative method is bound to raise new legal questions. Lawyers for Apple have said that the company would want to know the method used to crack open the device.
But the withdrawal of court process could take away Apple's ability to legally request details on the method the FBI used. It also is likely to raise questions among Apple customers and the industry about the strength of Apple’s security on its devices.