Apple refuses to build iPhone backdoor for the FBI

Tim Cook has argued that Apple can not build the FBI a backdoor to help with its investigation into the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

By - February 17, 2016 Share on LinkedIn
Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook speaks on stage during an Apple event in San Francisco, California October 22, 2013.

Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed in a post on the company’s website that the United States government has asked them to build a backdoor for the iPhone.

Cook explained that the backdoor would involve building a new version of the iPhone operating system to load on one of Apple’s devices that was recovered during the investigation of the San Bernadino terrorist attack.

The new software would allow the FBI to “brute force” an iPhone’s unlock code by allowing a passcode to be input electronically.

According to Cook, they have complied with FBI’s legal requests for data in their possession related to the case, as they do with any valid subpoenas and search warrants.

Apple has also made its engineers available to advise the FBI.

“We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good,” Cook said.

However, while the FBI might argue that the backdoored version of iOS is for a once-off use only, Cook said there is no way to guarantee such control.

All Writs Act of 1789 – a dangerous precedent

More chilling is the fact that the FBI is proposing the use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify this, rather than asking for legislative action through Congress.

“If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data,” Cook said.

He added that from there the US government could demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept messages, access health records or financial data, track your location, or access the phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

“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 US government,” Cook said.

“This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.”

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