Magistrate Orders Apple to Help FBI Hack San Bernardino Shooter’s Phone

The founding fathers of the United States were fierce in protecting civil liberties, and the principles continue to be argued over technology developed more than two centuries later. A US magistrate in California has ordered Apple to provide the FBI software designed to defeat a self-destruct capability in iPhones that goes into effect once multiple incorrect passwords are tried. The county phone was used by one of the shooters implicated in the terrorist attack on a December workplace holiday party in San Bernardino. “The FBI has been saying for months that it is losing its ability to collect crucial intelligence because companies like Apple refuse to provide law enforcement with a backdoor to access phone data via a court order,” reports Kim Zetter for Wired. “But the FBI’s request in this case marks an intriguing twist to that because it shows that the FBI is confident in its ability to bruteforce a locked and encrypted phone, given the ability to try an unlimited number of password guesses.” Apple’s CEO Tim Cook describes the government’s request as an over-reach that could put all customers at risk of hacking by criminals or authoritarian governments. – YaleGlobal

Magistrate Orders Apple to Help FBI Hack San Bernardino Shooter’s Phone

Tim Cook asks the government to think about the many implications of FBI request for Apple to install backdoor to eliminates safety feature on one iPhone
Kim Zetter
Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Read the article from Wired.

Kim Zetter is an award-winning, senior staff reporter at Wired covering cybercrime, privacy, and security. She is writing a book about Stuxnet, a digital weapon that was designed to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.

Read the customer letter sent by CEO Tim Cook to Apple’s customers about the FBI request.

“Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

“All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data….

“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.

“The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control….

“The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, 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. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

“The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers – including tens of millions of American citizens – from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

“We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack….

“Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.

“We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

“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. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.” – Tim Cook

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