Feds should withdraw demand for iPhone hack, Apple CEO to employees

WASHINGTON -- Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook said in an early Monday morning email to employees that the U.S. government should withdraw its demand that Apple help the FBI hack a locked iPhone used by a shooter in the San Bernardino attack.

See Full Article

The message, subject-lined "Thank you for your support," is accompanied by an online question and answer page that reiterates many of the comments Cook made in a public letter after a magistrate judge's order last week. His communication to staff also brushes aside several key government claims made in Friday's filing, including an assertion that the company was acting out of business interests in saying it would not cooperate with an investigation of the California shootings by the FBI.

The comments from Apple and its CEO cap a week of back-and-forth filings and statements involving the Justice Department, FBI and Apple, after a U.S. magistrate ordered the company to break its iPhone security protocols to assist federal officials probing the San Bernardino shootings.

The emerging legal fight has sparked a debate on government power, privacy, digital rights, public safety and security set in connection with the Dec. 2 shootings.

The county-owned iPhone was used by Syed Farook, who along with his wife Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people during the attack.

Cook states in the letter to employees that the company has "no tolerance or sympathy for terrorists" and believes abiding by the judge's order would be unlawful, an expansion of government powers, and would set a dangerous precedent that would essentially create a backdoor to the encrypted iPhone.

"This case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation," Cook wrote, "so when we received the government's order we knew we had to speak out."

"At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone's civil liberties."

The question and answer posting acknowledges that it is technically possible for Apple to do what the judge ordered, but that it's "something we believe is too dangerous to do."

Apple also points to the difficulty of keeping such a "master key" safe once it has been created. The government has said that Apple could keep the specialized technology it would create to help officials hack the phone - bypassing a security time delay and feature that erases all data after 10 consecutive, unsuccessful attempts to guess the unlocking passcode. This would allow the FBI to use technology to rapidly and repeatedly test numbers in what's known as a brute force attack.

If the company's engineers were to do as ordered, Apple would do its best to protect it the technology, but Cook said the company "would be relentlessly attacked by hackers and cybercriminals."

"The only way to guarantee such a powerful tool isn't abused and doesn't fall into the wrong hands is to never create it," Apple states in the memo. The company has until Friday to formally protest the ruling in court.

FBI Director James Comey said in an online post Sunday that Apple owes investigative cooperation to the San Bernardino victims and said the dispute wasn't about creating legal precedent. The FBI "can't look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don't follow this lead," Comey said.

"We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist's passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That's it," Comey wrote. "We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land."

Cook said the government should withdraw its demand to the judge and form a group to discuss the issues brought up by this case. He said Apple would participate in such an undertaking.

Apple said it has continued to cooperate and has tried to help the government since the Justice Department court filings.

Much of the rhetoric has focused on whether the Justice Department would actually focus its investigation on a single phone, or whether its move in court represents an attempt to set a precedent for technology sharing that would ultimately be used on multiple phones. This high-profile case would not have existed if the county government that owned the iPhone had installed a feature on it that would have allowed the FBI to easily and immediately unlock the phone.

San Bernardino County had bought the technology, known as mobile device management from MobileIron Inc., but never installed it on any of the inspectors' phones, including Farook's, said county spokesman David Wert said. There is no countywide policy on the matter and departments make their own decisions, he said.

The service costs $4 per month per phone.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Black hole gets unusual 'kick' out of galaxy core thanks to gravitational waves

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A team of international researchers got a bit of a shock recently when a supermassive black hole — something that normally anchors the centre of a galaxy — was spotted speeding away from its home. The reason? Gravitational waves, says the research team. Source
  • Bad breath: Study finds array of bacteria when orcas exhale

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SEATTLE -- When the mighty orca breaks to the surface and exhales, the whale sprays an array of bacteria and fungi in its his breath, scientists said, some good, and some bad such as salmonella. Source
  • Trump's proposed NASA cuts take aim at Earth science

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Officials at NASA were delighted that U.S. President Donald Trump's budget proposal allocates $19.1 billion for the agency, down only 0.8 per cent from last year, but the proposal also cuts several programs to study the Earth. Source
  • 'Call of Duty' gamers converge on Toronto for national championship

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Many people have a go-to tool at work. For Andrew Ivers, it's a KBAR-32 this weekend. The 19-year-old from Toronto is a professional gamer who hopes to use his virtual assault rifle to help Team GIRG win the Cineplex WorldGaming "Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare" tournament final Sunday. Source
  • Apple: Software flaws in latest WikiLeaks docs are all fixed

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Apple said purported hacking vulnerabilities disclosed by WikiLeaks this week have all been fixed in recent iPhones and Mac computers. The documents released by the anti-secrecy site Thursday morning pointed to an apparent CIA program to hack Apple devices using techniques that users couldn't disable by resetting their devices. Source
  • Spacewalking astronauts prep space station for new parking spot

    Tech & Science CBC News
    ?Spacewalking astronauts prepped the International Space Station on Friday for a new parking spot reserved for commercial crew capsules. The 402-kilometre-high complex already has one docking port in place for the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner, which should start carrying up astronauts as early as next year. Source
  • Skin powered by the sun? Prosthetic limbs with better sense of touch being developed

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Amputees with prosthetic limbs may soon have much a better sense of touch, temperature and texture, thanks to the energy-saving power of the sun, British researchers said on Thursday. While prosthetics are usually fully powered using batteries, a new prototype from University of Glasgow researchers opens up the possibility for so-called "solar-powered skin," which would include better sense capabilities than current technology. Source
  • Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new parking spot

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Astronauts ventured out on a spacewalk Friday to prep the International Space Station for a new parking spot. NASA's Shane Kimbrough and France's Thomas Pesquet emerged early from the orbiting complex, then went their separate ways to accomplish as much as possible 250 miles up. Source
  • U.S.-born panda Bao Bao makes first appearance in China

    Tech & Science CTV News
    DUJIANGYAN, China -- American-born giant panda Bao Bao made her first appearance Friday before the public in southwestern China following her move there from Washington, D.C. Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo in Washington to pandas on loan from China. Source
  • CIA hacked Apple devices in ways users can't fix, Wikileaks says

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- New documents from WikiLeaks point to an apparent CIA program to hack Apple's iPhones and Mac computers using techniques that users couldn't disable by resetting their devices. Security experts say the exploits are plausible, but suggest they pose little threat to typical users. Source