Apple CEO opposes court order to help FBI unlock San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone

“Apple Inc opposed a court ruling on Tuesday that ordered it to help the FBI break into an iPhone recovered from a San Bernardino shooter, heightening a dispute between tech companies and law enforcement over the limits of encryption,” Dustin Volz and Joseph Menn report for Reuters. “Chief Executive Tim Cook said the court’s demand threatened the security of Apple’s customers and had ‘implications far beyond the legal case at hand.'”

“Earlier on Tuesday, Judge Sheri Pym of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles said that Apple must provide ‘reasonable technical assistance’ to investigators seeking to unlock the data on an iPhone 5C that had been owned by Syed Rizwan Farook,” Volz and Menn report. “That assistance includes disabling the phone’s auto-erase function, which activates after 10 consecutive unsuccessful passcode attempts, and helping investigators to submit passcode guesses electronically.”

“In a similar case last year, Apple told a federal judge in New York that it was ‘impossible’ for the company to unlock its devices that run an operating system of iOS 8 or higher,” Volz and Menn report. “According to prosecutors, the phone belonging to Farook ran on iOS 9.”

“Prosecutors said Apple could still help investigators by disabling ‘non-encrypted barriers that Apple has coded into its operating system,'” Volz and Menn report. “Apple and Google both adopted strong default encryption in late 2014, amid growing digital privacy concerns spurred in part by the leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.”

MacDailyNews Take: Let’s get real: Google’s me-too promise of encryption will take several years to roll out to a significant number of fragmandroid sufferers.

Android 5.0 and 5.0 only comprise 35.3% of Android devices. The percentage of those are encrypted by default is far less than even that due to significant performance issues. Android 6.0, with full-disk encryption on by default, is only running 1.2% of Android devices!

With 17% running iOS 8 and 77% running iOS 9, 94% of Apple’s iOS devices are encrypted.

In other words, stop trying to equate Android with iOS by including Google’s efforts with Apple’s. Android is a bad joke, as usual.

“Forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski said on Tuesday that Apple might have to write custom code to comply with the order, presenting a novel question to the court about whether the government could order a private company to hack its own device,” Volz and Menn report. “Zdziarski said that, because the San Bernardino shooting was being investigated as a terrorism case, investigators would be able to work with the NSA and the CIA on cracking the phone. Those U.S. intelligence agencies could likely break the iPhone’s encryption without Apple’s involvement, he said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple should appeal this wrongheaded decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be.

U.S. House lawmakers seek to outlaw states from banning encrypted iPhones – February 10, 2016
Obama administration wants access to smartphones – December 15, 2015
Obama administration’s calls for backdoors into encrypted communications echo Clinton-era key escrow fiasco – December 14, 2015
Donald Trump: To stop ISIS recruiting, maybe we should be talking to Bill Gates about ‘closing that Internet up in some way’ – December 8, 2015
Hillary Clinton: We need to put Silicon Valley tech firms to ‘work at disrupting ISIS’ – December 7, 2015
Apple CEO Cook: ‘You can’t have a back door that’s only for the good guys’ – November 21, 2015
Apple CEO Cook defends encryption, opposes back door for government spies – October 20, 2015
Do not let the government snoops weaken encryption – November 4, 2015
U.S. NSA seeks to build quantum computer to crack most types of encryption – January 3, 2014
Judge compares government request for Apple to access users’ iPhone data to execution order – October 27, 2015
U.S. judge expresses doubts over forcing Apple to unlock iPhone – October 26, 2015
Apple tells U.S. judge it can’t unlock iPhones running iOS 8 or higher – October 20, 2015
a href=””>Apple CEO Cook defends encryption, opposes back door for government spies – October 20, 2015
With Apple court order, activist federal judge seeks to fuel debate about data encryption – October 12, 2015
Judge declines to order Apple to disable security on device seized by U.S. government – October 10, 2015
Apple refused to give iMessages to the U.S. government – September 8, 2015
Obama administration war against Apple just got uglier – July 31, 2015
Edward Snowden: Apple is a privacy pioneer – June 5, 2015
Apple, others urge Obama to reject any proposal for smartphone backdoors – May 19, 2015
U.S. appeals court rules NSA bulk collection of phone data illegal – May 7, 2015
In open letter to Obama, Apple, Google, others urge Patriot Act not be renewed – March 26, 2015
Apple’s iOS encryption has ‘petrified’ the U.S. administration, governments around the world – March 19, 2015


      1. No – to a false sense of security created by a bloated government that wants the power to peek into whatever anybody may be doing. Yes, terrorism today – what will it be tomorrow? NO NO NO NO NO

  1. It just goes to show you how manny imbeciles work in government. What part of, we can’t unlock the phone, doesn’t the government get?

    Maybe they should just try good old fashioned investigative work instead. Oh wait, that’s too hard. Keep fighting Apple and don’t give in, with your cash hoard, you should be able to repel any lawsuit, etc.

    1. “Maybe they should just try good old fashioned investigative work instead.”

      They did, that’s how he was caught. Now they’re going through all his stuff. That’s what’s called old fashion police investigative work.

  2. The national, regional, and local governments of the United States of America are unconstitutional. They have usurped powers over the last 100 plus years that are in violation of the Constitution of the United States of America. The biggest threat to Americans are the persons, laws, and policies of the national, regional, and local governments of the United States of America.

  3. The Gubbermint has misused, abused, and engaged in some of the most OUTRAGEOUS illegal conduct to wit— NSA, DEA, FBI, IRS, Lerner, Attkinson, DOJ, etc etc etc……….
    Their unrepentant, unabated conduct has now earned them the universal “Hell NO” response……..
    Encryption and “burner phones” have been around for YEARS!!

    And for the TSA–“it’s for our safety” crowd I say BS.
    Feds get off your azzzzzzzzzzzz and go recruit sources/informants and get out of the office and away from your desktop….

  4. Folks, this is being investigated as a terrorism case, the information could lead to other sleeper cells that are planning more murders. Apple should help in any way possible. Preventing murder of innocents should surpass a SPECIFIC individuals privacy when being PROPERLY and COURT approved investigation.

    1. Yes yes and yes..
      And its not about encryption…
      Is about unlocking a phone…… By apple.. A phone that was used by a KNOWN terrorist.
      Nit not teaching government some secret about bypassing encryption systems.. Or providing backdoors across the board.

      Sisome idealists can be sooooo naive.. …. I wonder if they would cry foul as loudly and dogmatically … If their own childrens life was on the line directly !
      9let my child die.. Its ok…. Its by Constitution”….

      Naive , and naive… About the realities of the world… Almost laughable .

  5. The government IS corrupt. Remember: This is the same “nation” that annexed the Kingdom of Hawaii without a formal treaty. If they can steal entire nations, then I would not be surprised that they would steal your personal information.

  6. Apple should make a credible looking attempt to hack into that iPhone and either say that they simply couldn’t manage it, or else offer a raw data dump that isn’t really of much use to anybody and declare that’s all they can find, but that they don’t know any way to extract data from it. Apple will have provided them with what’s actually stored on that iPhone. It’s then up to the authorities to interpret that information how they wish.

    Some reports are suggesting that special software should be written and loaded into iPhones to subvert the encryption, but from the point of view of evidence integrity, the moment you load new software onto a new phone, you have altered what’s on there and it would be inadmissible as evidence.

    If Apple agree to hack this iPhone and retrieves any meaningful data, the floodgates will be open for every future suspect all around the world to have their iPhone hacked too.

    1. Without knowing more than is in the media and Cook’s open letter, I am inclined to agree that the government request is overreaching. The All Writs Act requires reasonable cooperation, and it sounds like Apple has provided that. There comes a point when any cost-benefit analysis would find a request for assistance with a writ unreasonable. For example, a bank can be required to provide access to a safety deposit box, but I doubt that it could be required to demolish its own building in the process. This would, in effect, demolish Apple’s building by creating a potential backdoor that would allow brute-force attacks on iPhone security. Once that backdoor existed, it would be difficult or impossible to keep it our of the hands of other governments or private hackers.

      There is a saying that “Bad cases make bad law.” You can tell that a bad judicial opinion is coming when it begins, “Now comes the Widow Jones complaining of the Smith Corporation.” This is almost the worst case scenario (not as bad as an active kidnapping involving multiple children, but close). The owner of the phone (San Bernadino County) has authorized access and the information might lead to active terrorists. Nevertheless, making law in such an appealing case will inevitably open the door to much less meritorious cases.

      Parenthetically, please note that this is an iPhone 5c, so there is no secure enclave as there would be with a newer device. Most of us might still be relatively safe.

  7. I wonder if we’ll hear when someone finally cracks the device and the find nothing on it for the all the effort. Or the data is useless because anyone in contact with these terrorists, would have long since moved to different places, devices etc

  8. It sounds like in these two cases that Apple was asked to “unlock” a iPhone, which I’m sure they can do. What Apple did is set a precedent that it takes a Federal Judge, and not just a lot cal warrant, to unlock a Apple iPhone. The encrypted messages are a entire different set of governmental problems.

  9. These two terrorists became very dangerous when they purchased high powered rifles, assault weapons, and enough ammunition to supply a gun shop. Where was the FBI when that was happening? In reference to a “back door,” just remember, it means we will know everything Congress puts into their cell phones. It will be the best soap opera script ever produced.

  10. The iPhone didn’t kill those people. AK-47’s and other weapons and bullets did. If the FBI was as tough on weapons and ammunition as they are in Apple right now they really could prevent future attacks. Put Touch ID on all guns, put radio tags on all weapons, register all ammo sales, we can stop this stuff. But blame Apple? Silliness. You want to stop terrorists stop their weapons and their ammo. It really galls me how people would say they are throwing away their iPhone if Apple doesn’t do what they are told but no one is throwing away their guns because they are used to kill so many people!

  11. People, you can not apply the law one way when you like it and another way when in that particular case you prefer that other way.

    For example: Over here you serve about 2/3 of a sentence when you behave in prison. That also goes for child molesters, not just those who have robbed a liquor store. The parents of the children might think death is a better sentence that esrly release, but it is the law.

    That is the reason why the law is blind, without prejudice etc etc.

    Would I torture a person to reveal the position of a bomb about to explode killing thousands? You bet! Should it be public? No! Becuase it would create a presedent you do not want for your society!

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.