Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Apple Is Refusing to Unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino Shooter

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Apple Is Refusing to Unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino Shooter

Article excerpt

In a bold act of defiance Tuesday, Apple refused to comply with a federal court order forcing the company to help the FBI break into the iPhone of one of the two San Bernardino, Calif., shooters, calling the implications of the government's demands "chilling."

"Opposing this order is not something we take lightly," wrote Apple CEO Tim Cook in a statement to customers hours after the Federal District Court for the District of Central California ordered it to build software that would disable some security features of the iPhone 5c that belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook.

Mr. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were killed by police after they brutally massacred 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino in December.

"We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the US government," wrote Mr. Cook.

As part of its ongoing investigation of the San Bernadino shootings, the FBI says it has not been able to hack Farook's phone, after many attempts. The agency wants Apple's help because it is worried that the phone's security features will block it from the data permanently after it fails 10 times to login with the wrong password.

But to Apple, the current order is a harbinger of bad things to come. The company says there is no way to ensure that building a software to help the FBI turn off the security features of Farook's iPhone would be used just once on that phone.

Essentially, building the software would amount to giving the government a permanent way to get around the company's encryption software, says Apple, something the company has vehemently fought, claiming that creating a "backdoor" for the government means opening a backdoor for everyone - hackers, terrorists and other criminals.

"The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that's simply not true," Cook wrote.

"Once created, the technique could be used over and over again," he said, "on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks -- from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. …

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