There has already been much discussion about the many issues with the DOJ's motion to compel Apple to create a backdoor to let them brute force the passcode on Syed Farook's iPhone. However, eagle-eyed Chris Soghoian caught something especially interesting in a footnote. Footnote 7, on page 18 details four possible ways that Apple and the FBI had previously discussed accessing the content on the device without having to undermine the basic security system of the iPhone, and one of them only failed because Farook's employers reset the password after the attacks, in an attempt to get into the device.
The key line:
... to attempt an auto-backup of the SUBJECT DEVICE with the related iCloud account (which would not work in this cases because neither the owner nor the government knew the password to the iCloud account and the owner, in an attempt to gain access to some information in the hours after the attack, was able to reset the password remotely, but that had the effect of eliminating the possibility of an auto-backup).
The "owner" of course, being the San Bernardino Health Department, who employed Farook and gave him the phone. Basically, what this is saying is that if the password hadn't been reset, it would have been possible to try to connect the phone to a "trusted" network, and force an automatic backup to iCloud -- which (as has been previously noted) was available to the FBI. But by "changing" the password, apparently that option went away.
In other words, the San Bernardino Health Dept may have been the ones who really mucked things up for the FBI. But, of course, to be honest, the FBI is probably kind of happy about that. At this point, very few people honestly believe that there's anything of much value on that phone. But this situation allows the FBI to present the most sympathetic case it probably can to try to force backdoors onto tech companies.
This article, by Mike Masnick, was originally published on Techdirt.com as "Footnote Reveals That The San Bernardino Health Dept. Reset Syed Farook's Password, Which Is Why We're Now In This Mess."