One of the more surprising aspects regarding the locked iPhone 5c involved in the San Bernardino terrorist attack of 2015 was that the FBI was unable to unlock the device by themselves. What’s more, we would later find out that even the NSA — who the FBI asked for assistance — lacked the requisite tools to unlock the device, a somewhat startling fact given all we know about the NSA’s activities and expertise.
Speaking at a conference on military technology this past Friday, NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett addressed the topic and explained why the NSA was unable to access Syed Farook’s iPhone 5c. And as it turns out, it’s not necessarily that the task was beyond the NSA’s capabilities. Rather, the iPhone 5c wasn’t a sufficiently popular device that would have warranted the NSA’s attention in the first place. In other words, the iPhone 5c was never on the NSA’s radar because the people it had an interest in tracking and spying on were using other devices.