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Apple educating FBI, other police on accessing data from iPhones, Macs & iCloud

Despite the appearance of conflict between Apple and U.S. law enforcement, the company is not only cooperating in many search requests but actually training the FBI and other police forces.




The company doesn't train police on cracking product security, but does walk them through other avenues for collecting data from devices like iPhones and Macs, as well as iCloud accounts, according to one Forbes source. Forensic specialists are alerted to iOS and macOS updates that could impact investigations.

Apple reportedly offers this training for free, and spends much of its time handling local and regional police forces that don't understand the technology or processes involved in gathering Apple-connected data. In one instance, a police department printed out 15,000 pages after receiving a file from Apple, instead of leaving it in the digital arena.

"We have a great relationship with them [Apple] from a local field perspective and also from understanding products and what they do from an engineering standpoint, which [goes back] to Quantico," according to John Bennett, the special agent in charge of the FBI's San Francisco division, which is one of the first points of contact between Silicon Valley firms and the rest of the bureau. Some of Apple's training is done at the FBI's Silicon Valley Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory.

"From our experience in San Francisco, we have meetings with Apple and they are not only a great company but they're also victims. Their stuff gets hit and their employees get in harm's way, so they call us locally on a lot of things they need help for," Bennett added.

Separately, another Forbes source commented that the FBI has turned to at least one third party in its attempt to get into the iPhone SE of Devin Kelley, who killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. It's unknown if the FBI has awarded a contract, and/or if it has successfully hacked the device.

Apple has garnered flak from U.S. politicians, law enforcement, and spy agencies because of its resistance to creating back doors, particularly in the case of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. This includes FBI Director Christopher Wray, and others currently at the bureau.