Apple iPhone users concerned about their privacy should upgrade to at least iOS 8.0.

For unknown reasons, the U.S. Justice Department is seeking access to an iPhone. The specifics surrounding the case are being kept under wraps.

On Apple's part, the Cupertino-based company told federal Magistrate Judge James Orenstein that it is technically unable to do what the government is asking it to do — break into the iPhone.

"In most cases now and in the future, the government's requested order would be substantially burdensome, as it would be impossible to perform. For devices running iOS 8 or higher, Apple would not have the technical ability to do what the government requests — take possession of a password protected device from the government and extract unencrypted user data from that device for the government," the company replied to the Court's assumed authority for such a request stemming from the All Writs Act.

The All Writs Act basically allows United States federal courts to "issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law." In other words, if the court orders Apple to unlock an iPhone, Apple must do so. This latest judicial issue is, in fact, not the government's first crack at cracking a secured phone nor it is Apple's first time in dealing with such government requests.

Late last year, the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York used the All Writs Act to force a smartphone maker to bypass the lock screen of a smartphone that was reportedly being used for credit card fraud. Around the same time, it was found (again) that the Oakland Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office invoked the same writ seeking to get Apple to unlock an iPhone 5S involved in a criminal case.

This time around, Apple is holding its ground that the All Writs Act may not apply here because, among other reasons, the bounds of mandatory law enforcement assistance have already been drawn by the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and because Apple does not own or control the device in question.

Further into Apple's brief to the federal judge, it states 90 percent of iPhones are already running iOS 8.0 or higher. For the remaining 10 percent still stuck on older versions of iOS, Apple says it could still access those devices (which includes the iPhone in question in this case). Nonetheless, Apple strongly urged the court to not require it to comply as doing so would "threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand."

Photo: Jak Sie Masz | Flickr

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