After all the squabbling between Apple and the FBI over iPhone encryption—specifically, the contents of the iPhone belonging to one of the the San Bernardino shooters—it should come as little surprise that the story ends in a bit of a Murphy's Law.CBS News reported earlier this week that the FBI hasn't found anything of interest on Syed Farook's device.
The unnamed source indicated that the FBI is still analyzing the phone's contents, so it's possible that the FBI might unearth something interesting. That, and it's also possible that the FBI has found something and isn't saying anything about it, though we feel as if that scenario is a bit less likely. Given all the trouble the FBI had to go through to access said device, and how much the FBI was ready to run the judicial gauntlet with Apple just to bypass the company's protections for said iPhone, we feel as if the FBI would likely be more forthcoming with anything it found if, indeed, it found anything interesting.
As The Washington Post reported a few days ago, unnamed sources have said that the FBI actually turned to professional hackers to help it get into the iPhone rather than a cybersecurity firm, as initial reports speculated. Said hackers found a software flaw that, with some customized hardware that they created, helped the FBI break into the iPhone without triggering any kind of security mechanism.
The core of the entire situation centered on Apple's protections that, when enabled, will reset an iPhone owner's device after 10 incorrect (sequential) attempts at inputting the device's PIN. (Additionally, the time one has to wait between attempts starts increasing after the fifth failed attempt, which makes the device a bit more annoying to break into via brute-force methods.)
Without this protection in place, the FBI had estimated that it would have taken a mere 26 minutes to break the four-digit PIN protecting Farook's iPhone. The FBI hasn't disclosed the vulnerability the paid-for hackers used to break into the device, nor has the FBI indicated how much it paid for the help. It's also unclear if the FBI will ever let Apple know exactly what it did, which undoubtedly consternates Apple.
Though the FBI dropped its lawsuit against Apple in late March, the FBI is hardly done demanding Apple's help to bypass its devices' protections. Around a dozen or so cases are currently winding their way through the courts, including a case in New York where the U.S. Justice Department is asking a federal judge to force Apple to help it unlock an iPhone 5S that was seized during a drug investigation. (The defendant in the original case has since confessed and awaits sentencing in May.)