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by Brian Schrader

FBI tells Apple to Create a Master Key to iOS

Posted on Wed, 17 Feb 2016 at 11:05 AM

This has been an interesting morning. Earlier today, Apple released a statement basically claiming that the FBI asked it to create an insecure version of iOS that would allow them to gain access to the data on a person's iPhone. They claim that they want this power to help their investigation of the San Bernardino case, but as many people have pointed out, this is not just about this one case, and it sets a dangerous precedent.

Tim Cook (via mjtsai):

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

One thing to note: Apple hasn't just given the FBI the information they need, but they've also provided them with engineers to advise them. From the post, it seems like Apple has been more than helpful to the FBI during this case, and now the FBI wants even more.

Marco Arment:

It’s their excuse to establish precedent and permanent backdoors for themselves so they can illegally spy on anyone’s data whenever they please. They’re shamelessly using a horrible tragedy to get themselves more power.

Soon after Apple released this statement, the EFF said that they will file in support of Apple. I hope that their support will help Apple convince the government that this is a bad idea, but unfortunately I don't think it's going to do any good.

More info here and here.

Update (Feb-23): Apple has posted a FAQ to help answer a few common questions and to further the discussion. Here's an excerpt that sums up the point really well:

The only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn’t abused and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is to never create it.

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