Apple Asks for Delay in Drug Dealer Phone Case to See if FBI's Crack Works

Apple in CourtApple has asked for a delay in a New York court involving a drug dealer's iPhone. According to Reuters, Apple filed the request on Thursday arguing that if the FBI has a way to get into the work iPhone of dead terrorist Syed Farook, it may be able to use that method to get into the iPhone of the alleged drug dealer. If so, Apple argued, "it would eliminate the need for Apple's assistance."

It's a bold gambit in the face of FBI Director James Comey's assertions earlier on Thursday that he remains focused on getting backdoor access to encrypted communications and devices. Apple's argument is essentially, get it your own damned self.

Apple tossed in an additional fun twist in the case by asking the court to allow Apple to test the FBI's new method if that method fails to actually work.

"On the other hand," Apple wrote, "if the DOJ claims that the method will not work on the iPhone here, Apple will seek to test that claim, as well as any claims by the government that other methods cannot be used."

This is very interesting angle for Apple. The company is saying that if the government finds itself with a method of hacking into an iPhone, but fails with that method, Apple will have its own experts try said method—a method that Apple did not invent—just to make sure they were doing it right.

Which, of course, would then give Apple the details of that method. Totally unrelated and, like, in a completely coincidental way—no, for reals, yo—Apple could then defend against that method in future versions of iOS.

The reality is that the government should be alerting tech companies when they find vulnerabilities so that they can be patched. As former NSA and CIA Director General Michael Hayden said, the country as a whole is stronger when our communications and data are protected against criminals and foreign agents who seek to steal it (that's my paraphrase of the General's comments).

But there is a natural tendency in law enforcement and intelligence services to want to keep zero day exploits to themselves so they can use them on the bad guys. Apple's request to the courts to allow it to test any methods that fail is sort of a workaround against that tendency.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.