Apple gets More Time to Respond to iPhone Unlocking Order

Apple now has until February 26 to respond to a Federal court order compelling the company to create an iOS version the FBI can use to hack into an iPhone in the possession of one of last year's San Bernardino mass shooting. Apple was originally given five days to reply, and has vowed to fight the order over concerns for user privacy and security.

Apple now has until February 26 for response in iPhone unlocking orderApple now has until February 26 for response in iPhone unlocking order

News of Apple's extended deadline to reply comes courtesy of unnamed sources speaking with Bloomberg.

The FBI's court order says Apple must create a special version of iOS that bypasses a security feature that wipes all data from the device after ten failed login attempts. Apple must also remove the time delays between login attempts, and add in a way for the FBI to automate entering password attempts.

What the FBI is asking for is a way to launch a brute force attack on iPhone passcodes, which isn't possible today. The court order said this would be a one-off tool used just on the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, but the way Apple has been ordered to create the hackable iOS version makes it easy to repurpose for other iPhones and iPads.

"Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices," Apple CEO Tim Cook said. "In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks—from restaurants and banks to stores and homes."

Apple is concerned about the precedent the court order creates should it stand. It gives the government a way to strip away security safeguards for all of our personal devices storing encrypted data without requiring Federal legislation, and sets up a foundation where government agencies could potentially force companies to install hackable operating systems on our smartphones, tablets, home monitoring devices, and more.

In this case, the iPhone in question was issued to Syed Rizwan Farook by his employer, San Bernardino County. The phone was intended for work-related use, although that doesn't preclude the possibility that he used it for personal activities, including orchestrating the attack he carried out on his coworkers. What seems more likely, however, is that he used his personal smartphone for his terrorist plans—a phone he destroyed before launching the attack with his wife Tashfeen Malik.

Regardless of where he may have left clues, the FBI wants a way it can get at the encrypted data on iPhones, and this case is their foot in the door.

Apple isn't alone in its resistance to the court order. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Americal Civil Liberties Union have both criticized the ruling, Google CEO Sundar Pichai offered up his support for Apple's stance, and Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) said the order is inappropriate, too.

"This FBI court order, by compelling a private sector company to write new software, is essentially making that company an arm of law-enforcement," Congressman Lieu said. "Private sector companies are not—and should not be—an arm of government or law enforcement."

The court order is an emotionally charged hot button. One one side, the FBI says it needs access to the iPhone for national security. On the other side, Apple is saying this is a government overreach and unnecessarily hobbles our privacy. Apple has vowed to fight the order, and it's likely we'll see this case work its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.