The work-issued iPhone of San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook, which is at the center of a dispute between Apple and the FBI, could have easily been unlocked with mobile device management (MDM) software. Not only were San Bernardino officials aware of the software, they were paying for it, according to a Sunday report from the Associated Press.
As the software was never installed and configured on Farook’s device, officials lost a crucial method of regaining access to the device.
Using MDM, Farook’s employers could have carried out a number of tasks without his permission. They could delete any data stored on board, track the device’s location, restrict services and unlock the phone’s passcode restriction. The software is normally used in organizations and schools to manage issued devices. It costs around $4 per phone per month.
Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people before they were killed by police in San Bernardino, California, in December. Officials looking for clues want access to Farook’s iPhone 5C, which has a passcode lock on it.
A California judge has ordered Apple to grant the FBI access by creating a special piece of software that will allow the FBI to make computer-generated passcode guesses in rapid succession without fear of the device wiping itself. Apple has refused, stating it does not want to undermine the security of its own products.
MobileIron Inc. was providing MDM software to the county, but county spokesman David Wert said the software was the responsibility of each department, and that there is no countywide policy on installation.
The issue has sparked widespread public debate over encryption and law enforcement. Apple CEO Tim Cook said company compliance with the order would set “a dangerous precedent” and “would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”
The issue has fed into the presidential election. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has called for a boycott of all Apple products until the company complies, while GOP candidate Sen. Ted Cruz likened refusing the judge’s order to defying a search warrant.