Just when you thought the legal sparring between Apple and the United States government was over, the Department of Justice manages to get involved and ruin everything. We are, apparently, once again in a position where a government entity is trying to compel Apple to grant it access to an iPhone.
The case, related to an iPhone that was owned by a New York drug dealer, has been running for a little while now and a judge has already ruled that the DOJ cannot force Apple to unlock a device against its will. That was a big point in the case for both the DOJ and Apple, and importantly, it was deemed irrelevant once the FBI said it had gained access to the iPhone 5c in the San Bernardino case. Everyone expected the DOJ to ask the FBI to do its bidding instead, but the FBI has all but confirmed that the exploit it used in that case isn’t effective on iPhones with Touch ID.
With the news that the DOJ is once again asking Apple to unlock the iPhone in the New York case, it looks increasingly likely that the FBI’s ability to access the iPhone 5c does not apply here, meaning devices from the iPhone 5s onwards are likely immune to whatever the FBI has cooked up, with the difference likely to be the Secure Enclave feature that debuted with Touch ID to offer a more secure solution for encryption and storage of data from the fingerprint sensor.
Apple now has until 15th April to respond to the order to unlock this particular iPhone, but given its previous responses on such matters, we think it’s fairly easy to guess what is going to happen next. It’s what happens at the stage after that will be the most interesting.