Emergence of potential iPhone hack surprised government

The U.S. government recently succeeded in postponing its first court hearing in its ongoing encryption feud with Apple, citing the possible discovery of a new way of hacking into the iPhone at the center of the case without Apple's help. Now, a transcript has been released from the conference call where the decision to vacate the hearing was made, showing that the government was indeed surprised by the emergence of the new hacking method.

In response to Apple attorney Ted Boutros' request for a dismissal of the order altogether, Assistant US Attorney Tracy Wilkison reinforced the idea that the new hacking method was a last-minute development. From the transcript, as reported by The Verge:

We only learned about this possibility today, this morning, about this possibility that Apple is not necessary. And we have a good faith basis at this point in order to bring it up. There have been a lot of people who have reached out to us during this litigation with proposed alternate methods, and one by one they have failed for one reason or the other. And we haven't, you know, — there's just no reason to go into those.

But at this point we have, at least, a good faith basis that it will work. The problem is we don't know for sure. And while — if it's validated, the Court could then vacate the order. I think we are really premature to vacate the Court's order at this point because there's also the possibility that it will not work. I think we should just give the experts the time that they need to test it and let us report back to the court.

The hearing, which was set to take place today, was ultimately vacated with the condition that the government report back to the court with a status update by April 5. While the decision to vacate the hearing has given Apple a temporary reprieve, it's likely we'll continue to see rising tensions between the government and the tech sector concerning encryption.

FBI vs. Apple