The Maricopa County, Arizona, Attorney's Office has officially banned iPhones from the list of smartphones it will issue to employees. County Attorney Bill Montgomery said iPhones won't be issued to employees anymore because Apple is refusing to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by Syed Farook in last December's San Bernardino mass shooting, and as such is supporting terrorists.
In a statement issued Thursday, Mr. Montgomery said,
Apple’s refusal to cooperate with a legitimate law enforcement investigation to unlock a phone used by terrorists puts Apple on the side of terrorists instead of on the side of public safety. Positioning their refusal to cooperate as having anything to do with privacy interests is a corporate PR stunt and ignores the 4th Amendment protections afforded by our Constitution.
Mr. Montgomery's statement comes in response to Apple's refusal to cooperate with a Federal Court order compelling the company to create a version of iOS that removes the safeguards blocking brute force attacks on device passcodes. The FBI wants the specially coded operating system so it can find the passcode for the iPhone Mr. Farook had when he was killed in a shootout with police.
Mr. Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 of their San Bernardino County Department of Public Health coworkers last December and injured 22 others. His county issued iPhone was recovered and Apple helped FBI agents recover as much data as they could from the device's iCloud backup. When Apple said it didn't have a way to bypass the device's security code to gain full access, the FBI turned to the courts for an order compelling the company to do just that.
Apple has refused saying it is an unprecedented demand and would threaten the security and privacy of iPhone owners, and by extension, users of other devices with encryption features. Apple and the FBI are planning to square off in court over the order.
Mr. Montgomery isn't buying into Apple's argument and has decided his employees no longer need iPhones as part of their job. Currently, his office has 366 iPhones, and 564 smartphones total.
Interestingly, his statement also claims county prosecutors have obtained search warrants to "unlock encrypted smartphones, including iPhones," and that evidence has been obtained from those devices. Apple has said it doesn't have a way to unlock iPhones or other iOS devices—that, in fact, is why the FBI asked the courts to compel Apple to create a security weakened iOS for them to use—which doesn't fit with the Maricopa County statement.
The Mac Observer has reached out to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for clarification.
Mr. Montogmery added, "I cannot in good conscience support doing business with an organization that chooses to thwart an active investigation into a terrorist attack that claimed the lives of fourteen fellow citizens."