Speaking at Kenyon College, FBI director James Comey said that the hack it developed to open the iPhone 5c of one of the alleged San Bernardino shooters only works on an iPhone 5c or earlier model phone, running iOS 9. Newer model iPhones apparently don’t have the same vulnerability. That’s probably because from the iPhone 5s on, passcode information is stored in a secure enclave on the processor itself.
Comey also said that the FBI had still not decided whether or not to share the vulnerability—which was provided via a third-party—with Apple, though the agency has also reportedly been deluged with request from others looking to unlock iPhones. However, there are caveats:
The FBI director also confirmed that the federal agency could help local and state law enforcement by simply unlocking the older iPhones for them, but that evidence gained this way could not be used in court.
The FBI certainly has an incentive not to let Apple patch the hole as long as it’s applicable, but it will eventually become moot as older iPhones age out and are replaced with newer models. But it’s interesting that Comey says it can’t be used in court—many have speculated the NSA may have provided help, while others think that Israeli-based security firm Cellebrite was behind it. We may not know for a long while yet.