Apple have declined a request from the FBI to allow them to gain access to an iPhone owned by a gunman who killed 14 people in California last year.
The FBI requested that Apple rig the phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, by allowing them to have unlimited attempts to unlock the phone using software that would try ever possible passcode combination in rapid succession. However, in a surprisingly public statement y CEO Tim Cook posted on their website, the tech giant refused the request, citing that it could set a “dangerous precedent” and have “implications far beyond the legal case at hand”.
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.
If the FBI were to be granted the access they have demanded, it would open the door for all iPhones to be susceptible to hacking attempts, something Apple are not okay with.
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.
We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack.
The FBI have not publicly commented on Apple’s response.