Apple has told a US judge that its newest devices are impossible to hack.

The tech giant revealed the information after a federal magistrate judge in New York requested help from Apple to gain access to a seized iPhone for an ongoing investigation.

Apple replied by stating that, for the 90% of iPhones running the iOS8 or higher, the task “would be impossible to perform”. This is apparently due to a feature added in 2014 which locks everyone – including Apple – out of a device if its passcode is not provided.

The judge, James Orenstein, was also told that they could help with any iPhones still running older software. The company apparently has the “technical ability” to do so.

Here’s the real kicker: the iPhone in question is running an older version of iOS, so it could be cracked by Apple, but the company is asking the judge not to request that course of action.

“Forcing Apple to extract data in this case, absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand,” Apple’s lawyers wrote on Monday.

It seems that helping out the judge with this particular case isn’t up to the “technical ability” of one of the largest companies in the world, or some fail-safe encryption, but rather to do with a trust issue.

The fate of the investigation lies with the US Justice Department and whether they will force Apple to act. Orenstein has deferred the ruling until Apple has decided if helping out would be “technically feasible and…  unduly burdensome.”

In other news, hackers and coders alike have read this as a serious challenge. If we see iOS8 or later being cracked in the future this could be seen as the moment the gauntlet was thrown down.

[Source – Reuters]