Apple will oppose government’s order to unlock a shooter’s iPhone

Apple CEO Tim Cook has posted “A Message to Our Customers” saying the company will oppose an order from the U.S. government to unlock a shooter’s iPhone.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym has ordered Apple to help the FBI break into an iPhone belonging to Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the Dec. 2 attack that killed 14 people. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, died in a gun battle with police.

The ruling by Pym requires Apple to supply software the FBI can load onto Farook's county-owned work iPhone to bypass a self-destruct feature that erases the phone's data after too many unsuccessful attempts to unlock it. The FBI wants to be able to try different combinations in rapid sequence until it finds the right one. The Apple CEO says that “Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a back door” and “while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control."

Part of Cook’s letter reads: “Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

“All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.

“Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.

“For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.”