Apple CEO Vows to Fight FBI’s Request to Break Into iPhone Belonging to San Bernardino Terrorists

This September 19, 2014 file photo shows a man as he looks at his iPhone 6 Plus outside the Apple store in Pasadena, California. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
This September 19, 2014 file photo shows a man as he looks at his iPhone 6 Plus outside the Apple store in Pasadena, California. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Apple CEO Tim Cook said late Tuesday that the company would oppose a federal judge’s ruling ordering the technology giant to help investigators break into an iPhone belonging to San Bernardino, Calif., shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.

“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,” Cook wrote in a letter published on the Cupertino, Calif.-headquartered firm’s website.

“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,” he said.

Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in December in a mass shooting at a county public health facility. The pair subsequently died in a gun battle with police. An iPhone was recovered from the scene but because investigators don’t know the passcode they have been unable to access the phone’s data.

A court now wants Apple to help the FBI gain that access by giving it “reasonable technical assistance.” Cook said Apple would resist that order.

“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,” he said.

“We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them,” he said.

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SOURCE: Kim Hjelmgaard
USA TODAY