Common software would have let FBI unlock shooter’s iPhone

Sofware that could have helped the FBI unlock the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone wasn't installed by the county, the phone's owner.

This July 27, 2014 photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows Tashfeen Malik, left, and Syed Farook, as they passed through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. The husband and wife died on Dec. 2, 2015, in a gun battle with authorities several hours after their assault on a gathering of Farook's colleagues in San Bernardino, Calif. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The county government that owned the iPhone in a high-profile legal battle between Apple Inc. and the Justice Department paid for but never installed a feature that would have allowed the FBI to easily and immediately unlock the phone as part of the terrorism investigation into the shootings that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

If the technology, known as mobile device management, had been installed, San Bernardino officials would have been able to remotely unlock the iPhone for the FBI without the theatrics of a court battle that is now pitting digital privacy rights against national security concerns.

The service costs $4 per month per phone.

Instead, the only person who knew the unlocking passcode for the phone is the dead gunman, Syed Farook, who worked as an inspector in the county’s public health department.

The iPhone assigned to Farook also lacked a Touch ID feature, meaning the FBI cannot use the dead gunman’s thumbprint to unlock it now. The FBI found the phone in a car after the shootings.

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