Enlarge (credit: Cary Bass-Deschenes)

As a tumultuous 2016 draws to a close, one case distilled contemporary law enforcement, terrorism, encryption, and surveillance issues more than any other: the case popularly known as “FBI vs. Apple.”

The ordeal began on February 16 when a federal judge in Riverside, California, ordered Apple to help the government unlock and decrypt the seized iPhone 5C used by Syed Rizwan Farook. Farook had shot up an office party in a terrorist attack in nearby San Bernardino in December 2015.

Specifically, United States Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym mandated that Apple provide the FBI a custom firmware file, known as an IPSW file, that would likely enable investigators to brute force the passcode lockout currently on the phone, which was running iOS 9. This order was unprecedented.

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