The FBI has said it may have found a way to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, and has asked a California court to end its court case against the company.
The news landed late in the day in California, where the court case is set to kick off in a few hours.
In a filing with the court submitted Monday the Justice Dept. said that "an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method" for unlocking the iPhone, which was used by Syed Farook, who along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in the southern Californian town in early December.
"Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook's iPhone," the motion said.
The filing confirmed that should the work succeed, the FBI will drop its case against Apple, which had refused to help federal agents unlock the device.
The government proposed in the motion that the court hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, be vacated.
Officials have said that the judge overseeing the case has accepted the government's motion to suspend its action against Apple.
The government must file a status report by April 5.
The FBI's initial demands were that Apple effectively rewrite its iOS software to remove security features in order to allow federal agents to bypass the passcode on Farook's shooter's phone would "undeniably create a backdoor" that would affect every modern iPhone and iPad.
By invoking All Writs Act, the government would set a "dangerous precedent," according to Apple chief executive Tim Cook.
Justice Dept. spokesperson Melanie Newman said in remarks:
"Our top priority has always been gaining access into the phone used by the terrorist in San Bernardino. With this goal in mind, the FBI has continued in its efforts to gain access to the phone without Apple's assistance, even during a month-long period of litigation with the company. As a result of these efforts, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI this past weekend a possible method for unlocking the phone. We must first test this method to ensure that it doesn't destroy the data on the phone, but we remain cautiously optimistic. That is why we asked the court to give us some time to explore this option. If this solution works, it will allow us to search the phone and continue our investigation into the terrorist attack that killed 14 people and wounded 22 people."
Apple did not respond to a request for comment. If that changes, we will provide updates.
You can read the full two-page motion below.