The Department of Justice filed new documents on Friday urging the court to compel Apple to comply with an order to create a version of iOS the FBI can use as a forensics tool. The order says Apple must remove the security features that prevent brute force password attacks for an iPhone used by a shooter in last year's San Bernardino terrorist attack, and Apple is resisting the order saying it's unprecedented.
DOJ to court: Make Apple comply with iPhone unlocking order
DOJ prosecutors said Apple is resisting to help in a Federal investigation despite the fact that the company has until February 26 to respond to the court order. According to ABC News, the new filing stated,
Rather than assist the effort to fully investigate a deadly terrorist attack by obeying this court's [previous order], Apple has responded by publicly repudiating that order.
Apple CEO Tim Cook did publicly respond with an open letter saying the order "would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks—from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable."
The order was issued by a Federal Court earlier this week as part of an FBI investigation into a December 2, 2015, shooting where Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire on their coworkers during a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health party. 14 people were killed in the shooting, and 22 more were seriously injured.
According to the court order, Apple must create a special version of iOS for Syed Farook's work-supplied iPhone 5c that bypasses the build-in security measures so FBI agents can conduct a brute force password attack on the device. Agents plan to use the technique to find the iPhone's passcode so they can see data that's currently encrypted.
Apple has a legal right to contest the order, and that's exactly what the company is doing. The FBI and DOJ, however, don't want to wait and would like to see the courts force Apple to comply now.
The FBI is calling this a special case and not something they plan to do again. Even if that's true, it still sets a precedent where companies can be expected to develop tools the government can use to bypass security measures and gain access to our private data. Foreign governments, including China, could demand access to those tools as well, creating a major security risk for the United States.
Former NSA and CIA Chief Michael Hayden thinks weakening encryption is a bad idea, too. He said,
America is more secure with unbreakable, end-to-end encryption. It's a slam-dunk if I widen the field of view to the broad health of the United States.
Other tech companies have started publicly supporting Apple's position and speaking out against government-mandated backdoors and forced weaker encryption. In the end, this is about opening the door for deeper government surveillance far beyond the iPhone, so of course the FBI and DOJ want to push Apple into compliance.
Apple still has until February 26 to respond to the Federal court order, despite the DOJ's protests. Presumably Apple will wait until the deadline to file its documents, so for now we all get to wait a week to see what the company says.