Apple resisting order to help hack San Bernardino shooter's iPhone

WASHINGTON -- Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook said Wednesday his company will resist a federal magistrate's order to hack its users in connection with the investigation of the San Bernardino, California shootings, asserting such a move would undermine encryption by creating a backdoor that could potentially be used on other future devices.

See Full Article

Cook's ferocious response, posted early Wednesday on the company's website, came after an order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym that Apple Inc. help the Obama administration break into an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the shooters in the December attack.

The first-of-its-kind ruling was a significant victory for the Justice Department in a technology policy debate that pits digital privacy against national security interests.

Noting the order Tuesday from federal Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym in California, Cook said "this moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake."

Cook argued that the order "has implications far beyond the legal case at hand."

Pym ordered Apple to help the FBI hack into an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters.., and setting the stage for a legal fight between the federal government and Silicon Valley over a first-of-its-kind ruling.

The order directing Apple to help the FBI break into an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardo shooters represents a significant victory for the Justice Department. The Obama administration has embraced stronger encryption as a way to keep consumers safe on the Internet, but struggled to find a compelling example to make its case.

Cook said in the website posting that the U.S. government order would undermine encryption by using specialized software to create an essential back door that he compared to a "master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks."

"In the wrong hands, this software - which does not exist today - would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone's physical possession," Cook wrote. "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 back door. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control."

FBI Director James Comey told members of Congress last week that encryption is a major problem for law enforcement who "find a device that can't be opened even when a judge says there's probable cause to open it."

The ruling Tuesday tied the problem to the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in a Dec. 2 shooting at a holiday luncheon for Farook's co-workers. The couple later died in a gun battle with police.

Federal prosecutors told the judge in a court proceeding Tuesday - that was conducted without Apple being allowed to participate - that investigators can't access a work phone used by Farook because they don't know his passcode and Apple has not cooperated. Under U.S. law, a work phone is generally the property of a person's employer. The judge told Apple to provide an estimate of its cost to comply with her order, suggesting that the government will be expected to pay for the work.

Apple has provided default encryption on its iPhones since 2014, allowing any device's contents to be accessed only by the user who knows the phone's passcode.

The ruling by Pym, a former federal prosecutor, requires Apple to supply highly specialized software the FBI can load onto the county-owned work iPhone to bypass a self-destruct feature, which erases the phone's data after too many unsuccessful attempts to unlock it. The FBI wants to be able to try different combinations in rapid sequence until it finds the right one.

It was not immediately clear what investigators believe they might find on Farook's work phone or why the information would not be available from third-party service providers, such as Google or Facebook, though investigators think the device may hold clues about whom the couple communicated with and where they may have traveled.

The couple took pains to physically destroy two personally owned cell phones, crushing them beyond the FBI's ability to recover information from them. They also removed a hard drive from their computer; it has not been found despite investigators diving for days for potential electronic evidence in a nearby lake.

Farook was not carrying his work iPhone during the attack. It was discovered after a subsequent search. It was not known whether Farook forgot about the iPhone or did not care whether investigators found it.

The phone was running the newest version of Apple's iPhone operating system, which requires a passcode and cannot be accessed by Apple, unlike earlier operating systems or older phone models. San Bernardino County provided Farook with an iPhone configured to erase data after 10 consecutive unsuccessful unlocking attempts. The FBI said that feature appeared to be active on Farook's iPhone as of the last time he performed a backup.

The judge didn't spell out her rationale in her three-page order, but the ruling comes amid a similar case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Investigators are still working to piece together a missing 18 minutes in Farook and Malik's timeline from Dec. 2. Investigators have concluded they were at least partly inspired by the Islamic State group; Malik's Facebook page included a note pledging allegiance to the group's leader around the time of the attack.

In 2014, Apple updated its iPhone operating system to require that the phone be locked by a passcode that only the user knows. Previously, the company could use an extraction tool that would physically plug into the phone and allow it to respond to search warrant requests from the government.

FBI Director James Comey told members of Congress last week that encryption is a major problem for law enforcement who "find a device that can't be opened even when a judge says there's probable cause to open it."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Hamilton MP uses 'Good Samaritan' memorial to fire criticisms at police and councillors

    Canada News CBC News
    Hamilton MP Bob Bratina used the occasion of a memorial vigil for shooting victim Yosif Al-Hasnawi to suggest that politicians and police have allowed the city to become less safe in the three years since he was mayor. Source
  • On monorails, hyperloops and other wild ideas to get from Montreal to Quebec City

    Canada News CBC News
    In a campaign-style speech last month, Premier Philippe Couillard mused about his desire to build a rapid transit link between Montreal and Quebec City. He mentioned few specifics and made no reference to cost; in terms of detail, it fell somewhere between a rough draft and an exercise in free association. Source
  • Democrats say Trump's tweets about NY senator sexist, unsavoury

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Plowing into the sexual harassment debate in a big way, U.S. President Donald Trump laced into Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday, tweeting that the New York Democrat would come to his office "begging" for campaign contributions and "do anything" to get them. Source
  • Budget watchdog details millions in potential GST revenues on carbon pricing

    Canada News CBC News
    A new report from Parliament's budget watchdog says carbon pricing in four provinces could net the federal government more than $500 million over two years in GST revenues. The report by the parliamentary budget officer, out Tuesday, says GST revenues from Alberta, B.C. Source
  • Halifax fire department admits to systemic gender discrimination

    Canada News CBC News
    Female firefighters in Halifax have faced systemic historic gender discrimination at work, according to a settlement involving the city, the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Service and former firefighter Liane Tessier. CBC News has learned the city plans to publicly apologise to Tessier during a media conference at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission on Monday. Source
  • Sexual, physical abuse 'rampant' at Ontario training schools, suit alleges

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- A man who says he was badly abused at one of Ontario's now-defunct training schools is spearheading a proposed class-action against the province that seeks $600 million on behalf of other children and youth sent to the provincial facilities. Source
  • Wynne says apology from Brown would end her defamation suit against him

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says her defamation lawsuit against the Opposition leader would end if he simply apologized. The legal action filed Monday against Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown stems from comments he made in September, a day before the premier testified as a witness at a trial involving two provincial Liberals. Source
  • Brown calls premier's lawsuit a diversion tactic, says he won't respond

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - Ontario's Progressive Conservative leader says a defamation lawsuit the premier has launched against him is a political stunt. Patrick Brown says Premier Kathleen Wynne's lawsuit is a mere diversion tactic from various bad news her government is facing, and he doesn't respond to diversion tactics. Source
  • Trump's Jerusalem declaration: a gift to Israel, but price tag may be high

    World News CBC News
    Israeli leaders are still quietly celebrating (more on that later) President Donald Trump's declaration that the United States now recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and plans are now underway to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City. Source
  • Math tutoring services popular as public schools struggle with poor math scores

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Four years ago, Arsheen Abbas signed her son up for private after-school math lessons because she felt the Grade 4 subject curriculum was not rigorous enough. The Oakville, Ont., mother enrolled her son in Spirit of Math -- one of several private tutoring companies operating in Ontario -- in hopes of bolstering his learning at an early stage. Source