San Bernardino Health Department Changed Terrorists’s iCloud Password at FBI Request

| Analysis

The San Bernardino Health Department said in a tweet that the iCloud account used by Syed Rizwan Farook was reset at the request of the FBI. On Friday, court documents and statements from Apple revealed that the iCloud account had been reset 24 hours after the FBI seized an iPhone used by Syed Farook after he and his wife killed 14 people in an act of terror.

The implication at the time was that this reset was done by the San Bernardino Health Department for reasons of its own. The agency owns the iPhone seized by the FBI as well as the iCloud account tied to the phone.

Not My Fault on Chalkboard

Apple said on Friday that it had worked with the FBI since early January to access data on the iPhone, including proposing four different ways to do so without creating a backdoor into iOS. One of those ways—which may or may not have been successful—was nipped in the bud when it was discovered the iCloud account password was changed in the first 24 hours the device was in the hands of the FBI.

Apple had hoped to trigger an automatic iCloud backup by taking the device to a known (trusted) network. Because the iCloud password was changed on Apple's servers by the San Bernardino Health Department, but not on the locked iPhone, that method didn't work.

What Apple didn't say and what the FBI didn't offer was that it was the FBI who asked the San Bernardino Health Department to change that password, at least according to a tweet:

Buzzfeed's John Paczkowski reported that the agency confirmed the tweet was authentic, but had nothing further to add.

There are already conspiracy-theorists suggesting that the FBI did so in order to use this iPhone and this situation to force Apple to build a back door into iOS. A more reasoned interpretation, however, is that the FBI asked for the reset so that it could log into the iCloud account. Any trouble it caused with Apple's hoped-for automatic iCloud backup would therefore be collateral damage, and not intent.

Why the FBI let the San Bernardino Health Department take the blame for the reset, however, is another issue.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Comments

aardman

The FBI is starting to look like a bunch of incompetent bumblers who are trying to put the blame for their fecklessness on someone else.

Lee Dronick

  There are already conspiracy-theorists suggesting that the FBI did so in order to use this iPhone and this situation to force Apple to build a back door into iOS.

Naw, just a screw up.

JustCause

The FBI has been dealing with the iPhone for years, they have a documented process for handling the evidence around the iPhone, there no way this was “just a screw up”. It’s not like any FBI agent can call the San Bernardino Health Department and tell them to do this, there would be steps and only certain people could have the authority to make the request. And if this info is that critical that agent would be fired.

JustCause

How many posts does it take to get more than an empty star, my self-confidence is being impacted grin

Lee Dronick

  How many posts does it take to get more than an empty star, my self-confidence is being impacted grin

The FBI is deletng them. smile

JustCause

I wish I could like a response grin

RonMacGuy

OK, I just HAD to respond to let JustCause and Lee know that I literally laughed out loud on this one!!

JustCause, keep at it, you’ll get your stars eventually. Lee’s been on TMO for like, what?, 40-50 years?!?!? Not many 6-star generals around!! I forget how many stars I have, so I am anxious to see when I hit ‘Submit’ - although since I’ve been a bad boy here in the past, Mr. Chaffin may have demoted me back to a 1-star!!

And remember, JustCause, it’s not the length of stars that you have, it’s how you use it!!

grin

RonMacGuy

Hey, I’m a 5-star guy!! Nice!!

If you feel inadequate, JustCause, just wait until Bryan Chaffin posts here - he’s got so many stars that we all just bow our heads and salute him!!

Lee Dronick

I joined 9 years ago, February 7th 2007.

Lee Dronick

Hey, you know where else that I am getting stars? My Apple Watch and the fitness apps. I have lost over 6 pound, several inches of diameter, and my stamina is much greater.

Scott B in DC

Then it’s the FBI’s fault, not Apple’s fault. The FBI, whose technical competence I can question with evidence, should just suck it up, buttercup. You screwed up, you lose!

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