Apple CEO Rejects Court Order to Create iPhone Backdoor
The debate over privacy and encryption accelerates as Apple opposes a call to help open the phone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists.In a case likely to set precedent for years to come, Apple is publicly opposing a court order to help unlock an encrypted county-owned iPhone 5c that was used by one of the suspects in a Dec. 2, 2015 mass shooting that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others in San Bernardino, Calif. The court order from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California compels Apple to assist FBI agents. The court is asking Apple to "bypass or disable the auto-erase function." Apple iOS devices have a security capability that will erase the contents of a device after a specified number of incorrect passcode attempts. The order states that Apple's reasonable technical assistance may include "providing the FBI with a signed iPhone Software file, recovery bundle or other Software Image File ("SIF") that can be loaded on the subject device." Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a publicly posted letter to customers that the company wants to help the FBI in its investigation but would not yield on its principles of user privacy to do so. Cook wrote that Apple has no sympathy for terrorists and has great respect for the FBI and its efforts. He added that in the weeks following the San Bernardino attack Apple has done everything it could to help the FBI with its investigation. "But now, the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create," Cook wrote. "They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone."
In Cook's view, what the court order requests is essentially a new version of iOS that is able to bypass existing Apple security capabilities. He warned that the new software could be very dangerous if the wrong people used it and could provide the ability to unlock any iPhone.