Apple Responds With Open Letter to Court Order to Unlock San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone


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Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP

The United States government has ordered Apple to help with a federal investigation regarding the San Bernadino terrorist attacks. However, Apple is wary to comply with the request.

During the attacks that left 14 people dead at a California government center in December, the FBI recovered a cell phone owned by the attackers, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. The recovered phone has not been of use to the FBI thus far due to the encryption and password protected software.


According to an AP report, Judge Sheri Pym has ordered Apple “to supply highly specialized software the FBI can load onto the phone to cripple a security encryption feature that erases data after too many unsuccessful unlocking attempts.”

Apple responded to the request with an open letter where CEO Tim Cook combatted the request “which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” Cook explained:

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.

According to NBC News, “Apple has five days to respond to the court if it believes that compliance would be burdensome.”

Apple’s company privacy policy, written by Cook himself, explains that Apple has “never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”

Prosecutors have argued that Farook may have hid evidence in an iCloud account, possibly even showing communication with victims of the attack. However, Farook may have disabled the data available. Investigators have been able to find several backups of Farook’s iCloud, most recently dating to a month and a half before the shooting.

“Cook insisted Apple had ‘worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime,’ but said the government had ‘asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone’ — something he described as ‘too dangerous to create,'” shared NBC News.

“While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products,” Cook explained in the open letter. “And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”


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