The FBI has successfully cracked a suspected terrorist's iPhone using a method that did not require Apple's assistance.
The Justice Department's announcement marks the end of a legal battle with Apple over whether it could compel the tech giant to help it unlock the iPhone 5C of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two individuals who perpetrated a mass shooting and attempted bombing in San Bernardino, California last December.
"The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook's iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court's Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016," reads a status report filed by the U.S. government on Monday. "Accordingly, the government hereby requests that the Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016 be vacated."
While the court case might be over, issues concerning users' privacy and security aren't going away any time soon.
In fact, as reported by the New York Times, the Justice Department's decision to drop the case could create new conflicts with Apple over user security depending on whether it decides to inform the company of how it unlocked Farook's iPhone without its help.
"I would hope they would give that information to Apple so that it can patch any weaknesses," said Esha Bhandari, a staff lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, "but if the government classifies the tool, that suggests it may not."
For its part, the U.S. government has defended its use of a method offered by an "outside third party" to unlock the terrorist's iPhone.
"It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails," said Melanie Newman, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department. "We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors."
Apple has issued a statement in response to this latest development in which it pledges its support to further the conversation on people's "civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy."
As of this writing, the tech company also still intends to transfer its iCloud encryption key management to account holders, a move which could stand in the way of or even prevent the FBI and other law enforcement agencies from requesting users' information in the future.