A magistrate in Riverside, CA has canceled a hearing that was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in the Apple v FBI case, at the FBI’s request late Monday, as a "third party" has presented a possible method for opening an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. The hearing was part of Apple's challenge to the FBI's demand that the company create a new version of its iOS, which would include a backdoor to allow easier access to a locked iPhone involved in the FBI's investigation into the 2015 San Bernardino shootings.
The FBI told the court that an "outside party" demonstrated a potential method for accessing the data on the phone, and asked for time to test this method and report back.
The Justice Department said it would update the court on April 5.
For now, the government is backing off its demand that Apple build a tool that will compromise the security of millions, contradicts Apple's own beliefs, and is unsafe and unconstitutional.
The FBI’s motion acknowledges that it may have other avenues to pursue in accessing the data on the phone, something that it must do under the law. It could also provide a way for the FBI to get out of a very public battle it provoked over a contentious issue: how and when tech companies can be forced to rewrite their software to facilitate surveillance.
However, the FBI could come back to the court in a few weeks and try again to force Apple to write software that breaks the security on our iPhones. It’s also possible that the FBI will look for another test case it can use to create a legal precedent.
Regardless of the courtroom battles ahead, FBI will continue its efforts in Congress. For years, the FBI has been decrying what they see as a "going dark" problem -- the FBI initiative to undermine encryption. Several members of Congress continue to threaten to rush through legislation that would mandate backdoors in technology or otherwise force tech companies to ensure FBI's access to everyone's communications.