Apple gets More Support for Protecting iPhone Encryption

Apple's supporters in its fight to overturn a court order compelling the company to bypass iPhone passcode security features is growing, and more amicus briefs have been submitted to the Federal judge overseeing the case. Recent additions to Apple's support list include AT&T, a group of law professors, several security and cryptography experts, and more.

More amicus briefs filed supporting AppleMore amicus briefs filed supporting Apple

The FBI obtained a court order a few weeks ago compelling Apple to create a version of the iPhone operating system that strips out the security features preventing brute force passcode attacks. The agency wants the operating system so it can hack into an iPhone that was retrieved from one of the shooters involved in last December's San Bernardino terrorist attack where 14 people were killed and 22 others injured.

The phone had been issued to Syed Farook by his employer, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. He destroyed his personal phone before the attack, but the FBI is hoping to discover more about the attack from the encrypted data on the work-issued iPhone 5c.

Apple is fighting the order saying it sets a dangerous precedent where privacy and encryption are at risk, and that it's an overreach of government authority. The company's supporters have cause to be concerned, too, because the outcome of this fight will have a real and direct impact on them—and on us as end users.

The Center for Internet and Society, representing the group of security and cryptography experts, said,

If Apple is compelled to create, cryptographically sign, and install software on one iPhone in this high-profile case, it will be ordered to do so in other cases—not just by U.S. courts, but by foreign governments. Obtaining the "GovtOS" software will be an attractive target for authoritarian states, hackers, spies, and criminals. Users of iPhones and other mobile devices would lose trust in automatic software updates, which are a crucial means of maintaining device security. In short, the court's order jeopardizes the security of everyone in the name of breaking into a single device.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation was critical of the FBI saying,

The Federal Bureau of Investigation should not be allowed to, in effect, stand over the shoulders of Apple programmers and force them to create and sign off on code that would decimate the iPhone's security. The signed code would send a clear message that it's OK to undermine encryption that users rely on—a view the government endorses but Apple fiercely opposes. 

The Media Institute raised concerns about protecting free speech and freedom of the press saying,

The FBI's order undermines the interests of the news media in protecting their autonomy in government investigations and in maintaining confidential communications. The authority the FBI seeks under the All Writs Act would place the independence of the press at risk.

Apple filed a motion to vacate the court order, along with a formal complaint. A hearing in the case is scheduled for March 22. You can check out the list of amicus briefs and letters to the court at Apple's website.