It’s Official: US Government Drops Its iPhone Unlocking Case Against Apple [Updated]

The Apple vs FBI battle is over, well at least for now. U.S. government’s Department of Justice dropped its case against Apple today as the FBI no longer needed Apple’s help in unlocking the iPhone 5c belonging to one of San Bernardino shooters.

In a court filing today, prosecutors told the court that FBI found a method to break into the said iPhone 5c running iOS 8.x and hence no longer needed Apple’s assistance in unlocking. For obvious reasons, no further details were provided on how or who, if any, helped the FBI crack that iPhone.


Hours after Apple’s “Let us loop you in” event on March 21st last week, and less than 24 hours before the March 22nd court hearing began, the DOJ announced that they may have found a way into the said iPhone and hence wanted to postpone the March 22nd court hearing. A week after that today, they have apparently got that method to work in successfully extracting the required data off the iPhone and so are dropping the case against Apple.

It all began back in February after a court ordered Apple to unlock the iPhone in question by building a backdoor into the iPhone dubbed “GovtOS“. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook refused to comply with the order as the company believed it would lead to a dangerous precedent for the future. Both parties were set for a battle Royale on March 22nd when less than 24 hours before the first hearing began, FBI apparently found a way into the iPhone which as we know now has resulted in an abrupt end to the battle.


It’s unlikely that FBI will ever make this mystery method of unlocking iPhone 5c running iOS 8.x public. It is also not known whether this method works on the newer iPhone models running iOS 9.x. Apple is yet to comment on this latest development.

Update x1: DOJ has now confirmed that the method they used for unlocking only applies to the iPhone 5c. Doesn’t work on latest iOS devices.

Update x2: Apple’s spokesperson has now provided an official response from the company, saying “This case should never have been brought.” Full statement is as follows:

From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.

We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated.

Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security, and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk.

This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy. Apple remains committed to participating in that discussion.

Full court order to vacate the case is embedded below.

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