While the U.S. government may have succeeded in working around Apple and breaking into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, another high-profile encryption case is far from over. The Department of Justice filed papers Friday in New York federal court stating that it will press ahead with its demand that Apple assist in unlocking an iPhone 5s that belonged to an alleged drug dealer.
The Justice Department says the method the FBI used to unlock the iPhone 5c in the San Bernardino case would not work on this phone. They say Apple has the ability to unlock the phone -- which is running an older version of Apple's operating system, iOS 7 -- but is refusing to assist with the investigation.
"The government's application is not moot, and the government continues to require Apple's assistance in accessing the data that it is authorized to search by warrant,'' the prosecutors wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Brooklyn case revolves around a suspect named Jun Feng, who was charged with possession and distribution of methamphetamine. Feng's iPhone was seized under a search warrant, but investigators have not been able to unlock it.
Unlike the San Bernardino case, New York prosecutors are arguing that unlocking Feng's phone would not require Apple to create any new software. It could use its existing capabilities for unlocking a phone that runs on iOS 7. This differs from the California terrorist's iPhone, which was running on a later version of the operating system, iOS 9, that had more rigorous, built-in encryption.
Apple attorneys said Friday the company will continue to oppose government attempts to extract data from Feng's phone.
Although the government says Apple has assisted with such requests in the past, Apple argued in the Feng case last fall that unlocking the phone would pose too great a burden on the company and would "tarnish the Apple brand," which depends on customers trusting that their data is secure.
Prosecutors are also seeking Apple's assistance unlocking phones in dozens of other cases around the country.
In another development Friday, a U.S. magistrate in Boston unsealed an order she issued February 1 ordering Apple to "assist" the FBI in a gang case there. The order directs Apple to provide "reasonable technical assistance" in "extracting data" from the suspect's iPhone.