After the deadly attacks in San Bernardino, California, authorities discovered that an iPhone used by one of the terrorists, Syed Farook, was protected by a passcode that the FBI couldn't bypass without the phone's security protections deleting the phone's contents.
Turning to the courts, the bureau tried to force Apple to create code that would allow the government to crack the iPhone's security. Apple resisted the push, claiming that doing so would jeopardize all of its customers' information, making them vulnerable to hackers and surveillance.
Tech companies lined up solidly behind Apple. Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, Amazon, Microsoft, and many others signed on to briefs supporting the phone manufacturer's argument that it should not be forced to build security-defeating software for the government. Many tech experts questioned whether it was even true that the federal government lacked the skill to break into Farook's phone without help. Some suggested the battle was actually about setting a precedent that private companies could be forced to assist the government in gaining access to data.
But right before a scheduled courtroom confrontation over a judge's order for Apple to comply, the FBI asked for a delay. With the assistance of an undisclosed third party—and without Apple's involvement—the bureau said it had figured out how to crack Farook's iPhone.