Poll: Do you think Apple should help the FBI crack open the San Bernardino iPhone?

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

It’s one of the biggest computer security stories of the year – but where do you stand?

Is Apple CEO Tim Cook wrong to oppose court requests that the technology firm help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers? Or is it important that a strong message is sent that customers’ privacy should not be eroded?

I make my view pretty clear in the following YouTube video:

Should Apple weaken iPhone security for the FBI? | Graham Cluley

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All of us are appalled by shootings like that which happened at San Bernadino, and our hearts go out to those innocent people who were killed and injured.

But the horror of San Bernardino must not be allowed to justify the continuing erosion of our collective privacy and liberty. Just because something might be possible, does not mean it should be done even if it might mean there might be more crime and terrorist acts in the future.

I’m prepared to live in a world of acceptable risk, as a risk-averse world which has stripped bare our privacy and liberty is not worth living in at all.

Our privacy is our freedom – and without it, the terrorists really will have won.

Fbi poll

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

89 comments on “Poll: Do you think Apple should help the FBI crack open the San Bernardino iPhone?”

  1. wally

    I would side with Apple if the poll was visible

    1. Greg · in reply to wally

      Laughing…wrt the poll: same. Then I did a temporarily allow all scripts.

      The idea that they need Apple's help to crack the phone is a red herring.

    2. Gary · in reply to wally

      Apple should take the cellphone and open this phone at their facility without the FBI hovering for the code…after they retrieve the necessary information Apple needs to put the code away until the next time it is necessary (yes there will be another time) and never give the code to anyone outside Apple. Privacy for consumers is paramount and for all businesses…data needs to stay out of the government and police hands…how many spies do we need in our world?

    3. dz · in reply to wally

      Graham Cluley, FYI the phrase is risk AVERSE. Important to know when in the security, or the financial, business.

  2. aaron

    You relinquish your privacy when you kill innocent americans. I don't think any law abiding americans have anything to worry about.

    1. Liam O'Loideoin · in reply to aaron

      How many innocent Americans did Frau Merkel ( the German Chancellor) kill before the NSA decided that they had the right to hack her mobile phone? Be certain you know who the real terrorists are before you spout off. Liam

      1. coyote · in reply to Liam O'Loideoin

        Well said Liam, very well said!

    2. coyote · in reply to aaron

      Yes, Aaron, because it's all about America… America this, America that.. Yo know the world doesn't revolve around America! But if you really want to go there what about all the people (including indeed Americans) America have harmed and even killed? I know the answer, of course. The answer is that the authorities can do whatever the hell they want – immoral, unethical, inhumane, anything (and they do and will continue to do so). And they have the backing of people like you. Blindly too, I'm sure, which is a dangerous thing indeed.

      1. coyote · in reply to coyote

        Note to self: be careful when cutting a sentence in two.

        'You know ….'

  3. Chris Clark

    A repressive governments – will – then use this knowledge to keep their citizens under. Think Iran, North Korea Russia. The bigger question to ask is how we all got here. For fair democratic governments, terrorists use the media to attack and sow division, there is likely to emerge a calibrateable link between column centimetres of coverage and more independent attacks.

    The government response is to up their detection rates and of course breaking encryption is a part of that. The government attempts to break encryption is driven my their need to fend off more terrorist headlines, and if the media were to consider their role and reduce coverage, it will take away the effectiveness of Western media as a terrorist tool.

    The argument then moves on to free speech of course. I would argue for editors it is more of a balance of reporting.

  4. Petr Beranek

    Best to cite Benjamin Franklin: “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Privacy is a part of Freedom for me, and I deeply believe we shouldn't open the floodgates of our security to government for one (or any other) case.

  5. Valerie

    The American government can send a warrant to the cell phone carrier to obtain call records and text messages along with location details. The imei number on the phone itself will be assigned into a carrier's system. No more information is needed.

    Apple giving the government access isn't going to bring back the people who died and Apple giving access to the iPhone probably won't save anyone either. If a terrorist group wants to commumicate then they're going to find a way to do so wihout the cover of an iPhone or encrypted app.

    1. Simon · in reply to Valerie

      Well said.

      Back-doors also leave opportunities to be discovered or exposed and taken advantage of.

  6. John Price

    I think Apple should fight tooth and nail to stop this request. You only notice that you are living in a dictatorship when it is too late to do anything about it.

    1. Liam O'Loideoin · in reply to John Price

      How true, unfortunately. Look at Russia, North Korea Turkey and Hungary to name but a few

  7. Robin

    People! Wake Up! There's technology and then there terrorism. If they blew up your family, you would care less about Apple and privacy laws. I think there has to be legislative exceptions made in this case. Otherwise, we are simply helping the terrorists.

    1. coyote · in reply to Robin

      No, I wouldn't. I really don't care what anyone says because the precedent is too strong and more importantly everyone deserves privacy. Everyone. If you don't agree with this would you kindly fork over your credit card information, your passwords (don't forget the accounts and don't forget cards or anything like that!), everything else you hide? Don't stop there, though. Please also send me your fingerprints. You're not a criminal you say? Well funnily enough many people that are accused of crimes often are unfairly (and wrongly) accused. Innocents have been executed in the precious United States of America! How is that different? Were these people innocent or were they guilty? Even if they are guilty does another death solve anything? Terrorism as a word is abused and anyone with any sense of history (and/or any sense at all) would know this (and admit it).

      Yes, this person did kill these people (or at least some .. my understanding is he did not kill alone so technically speaking he possibly didn't kill as many as claimed) but frankly I don't care one bit on the matter; the phone should not be unlocked.

      1. Travis · in reply to coyote

        There is no Right To Privacy when using public airwaves. I.e. The space between your phone and cell tower. In effect there is no expection of Privacy when using a Mobile Phone. Cook could end up in jail for hindering an investigation, as while as, helping terrorist and criminals. I for one think he should.

        1. coyote · in reply to Travis

          You're right: there often is no right to privacy. That's a problem, though. It's also hypocritical (and I do not refer to any US legislation because I frankly don't care about US legislation … it is frankly irrelevant to my points, too).

          But funnily enough this has nothing to do with what is being transmitted currently; it has everything to do with what MIGHT (keyword) be on his phone. That alone defeats your supposed logic/argument.

          And the only one helping 'terrorists' are those like you (YES I really just suggested that people LIKE YOU are helping 'terrorists' and it's true even if you don't see why or accept it) who think liberty should be taken away… who give in to fear… who allow the governments to get more and more power, scaremonger about terror, etc. Nope, Apple's decision is completely ethical. Besides, supposedly Apple was willing to comply with the FBI IF they kept it quiet. That they didn't is the FBI's fault and therefore they are whining (in a more pathetic way than usual and yes they whine a great deal) just like they do with encryption being a problem. They're a bunch of spoilt brats who don't have their way all the time.

          They rely on fear and anyone who has a tiny bit of sense and understanding of history would recognise this. You apparently don't and that is the problem. But don't worry: there are many people like you so you're in good company. And no I'm not wrong; I'm 100% correct. This is not an opinion it is a fact that so many refuse to accept.

        2. JustSayNo · in reply to Travis

          Encryption ensures your right to privacy whether a strong-armed government likes it or not. Home computer networks have encryption for security across "public" airwaves (ever heard of WPA2-PSK AES). Apple would be guilty of violating consumer's trust regarding every single iphone that could be hacked in the same manner. Imagine the resulting class-action lawsuit. Apple stock would go right straight into the gutter and weaken an American corporation that even people that do not own Apple stock think is so great and special. It seems to me that The Supreme Court will have to rule on this one. Never give up your rights as defined in the Bill of Rights for a fake feeling of security in an unwinnable "war on terror". Terror is an emotion, not an enemy. The "war on terror" is even more unwinnable than the "war on drugs". Cowards and nervous-nellies are always scared and afraid of something whether it is a real, or just perceived, threat. You really should watch the documentary Citizenfour. The NSA already has access to all digital communications through Internet Service Providers and American corporations. I guess it's true that Ignorance is Bliss. So, where are the limits to government overreach and who has to be the guinea pig to stand up for everyone else? Hang in there Tim Cook!

          1. Mark Jacobs · in reply to JustSayNo

            You actually believe that you have "rights"! My goodness! People were stripped of "rights" as soon as the powers-that-be put short-term gain before life as their motivation. If they cannot make money out of it, it is banned or stigmatised. There's your "rights". Some of the world's oldest pleasures (sex, natural drugs…) are difficult to obtain because the channels of supply (prostitution, growing cannabis…) have been outlawed globally. Note the operative word in that last sentence – GLOBALLY. If we're supposedly run by individual governments who make their laws independently of each other, why is this ban of pleasures global?

    2. coyote · in reply to Robin

      Incidentally, the only things that will help 'the terrorists' are things like this (and giving 'them' reasons to hate their targets). You'd also know this if you only understood history.

  8. Mark Jacobs

    If Apple let the FBI see the phone's data, they would discover that the CIA were complicit in brainwashing, arming and training the culprits. This has nothing to do with privacy – it's to do with covering the CIA's tracks.

  9. Phil J

    Wake up Robin! The aim of terrorists is not to kill people it is to destroy our free and open society. So it would probably best if we didn't help them to do that.


    1. coyote · in reply to Phil J

      Exactly. It's to instil fear hence 'terror-ISM'. Basic understanding of language. Terror is fear, fear is an emotion and emotion defeats logic (emotion happens much quicker). You can't defeat an ideal but the west fails to recognise this and worse still is they do the exact opposite of help. You can terrorise someone without violence. It's quite simple really (to do and to understand) and whilst the FBI won't admit it they certainly know it because they abuse fear as well.

  10. Geoff

    Apple are masters of clean-room development and keeping software under wraps. I'm absolutely opposed to building backdoors into consumer products, but Apple's argument doesn't address the fact that the FBI are asking for this as a one-off, with no requirement to release the software. Crack the phone, take off the data, then destroy the weakened firmware. It's not at all clear to me that an unreleased iOS patch for an old iPhone model threatens the wider public's privacy.

  11. Sam

    Testing this decision against another extreme situation (opposite privacy), hypothetically: The government has 10 minutes to defuse a nuclear weapon in London. The key is on the dead terrorist's iPhone…

    Some questions do not have yes or no answers.

    1. coyote · in reply to Sam

      'another extreme situation'

      And extremely hypothetical and immaterial too (the suspect is dead and they don't even know there is anything on the phone whereas in your example there is supposedly a way to stop a nuclear bomb from being dropped on London). Granted there are indeed questions that have more than one answer but this one here is definitely 'no' – at least to anyone who wants privacy for themselves (and anyone who claims otherwise is lying to themselves and others).

  12. Max Pierson

    Government dropped the ball when Homeland Security didn't check social media posts by the shooters before admitting them to the country. Apple should tell them to get their act together, go away and don't come back unless they want to buy an iPhone or something…

    1. Thomas D Dial · in reply to Max Pierson

      How many people, even those who have nothing to hide, are comfortable with the idea of DHS monitoring facebook posts routinely?

      1. coyote · in reply to Thomas D Dial

        I agree with you but I think you're missing (his?) point. I believe the point is that since they failed checking a more public thing (at least if there really were messages as suggested which is something I can't verify because I do not like social media) then they are even more inept and therefore should fix their own problems instead of worrying (and whining) about others. But I would extend this: the United States of America (and admittedly many other countries) should seriously consider looking at themselves because the fact is they are their worst enemy (despite claims to the contrary).

        On the other hand, those who are obsessed with Facebook and the like are too blind, foolish, stupid (I'd say these and more) to care (and understand) the problems with what they make public. They think they have nothing to hide but they are very mistaken. In any case I'd be surprised if governments aren't monitoring things like this anyway (doing so doesn't mean they aren't inept, of course). Even decades ago many in the virus writing community were very aware of the risks (for example) and quite concerned with what they said (and where). It's also true that some of them were really reckless in other ways (about what they said/did) regardless of this (but I'll not even get into that because it's not something I want to think about). And yes I know because I was part of it (though I never wrote destructive code and I did everything I could to save people grief where I could … the reality is many virus writers were very good programmers [my original attraction to the scene was because of this] and many were also quite kind .. and my friendship with some of them have benefited me to this day [even though I'm no longer in contact with any of them those I met because of them I am]).

        1. John Scott · in reply to coyote

          Quite The cretins that flew into the twin towers, when learning to fly at an American flying school, only wanted to know how to take off and weren't bothered about landing. The instructor reported this before 9/11 but his report was ignored/lost/whatever. Also flying schools can arrange a student visa for you allowing you to enter the USA without many checks at least that was the case then

          Also giving any authorities a backdoor which they claim is for this matter only is nonsense. When authorities obtain such they ALWAYS ALWAYS overstep the mark

          1. coyote · in reply to John Scott

            You're absolutely correct. I agree with you and then some. I agree with you because you're 100% right. But that's not what I was getting at. I was getting at they are inept at safety/security and yet that's not the worst part of it all: the west needs to look at themselves in other things because the west is their own worst enemy.

            That was my point and that's the scariest part of it all. The west has created its own enemies and anyone with an understanding of history (even before our times but also in living memory) would get this; but most of course ignore history (which includes not caring enough to learn it but more importantly learn the lessons).

  13. Jason Lee

    Yes I agree with what you are saying
    But aren't we missing the middle ground here

    Why can't the FBI ask Apple to open up this one device to gain the data they want

    This way each terror attack can be treated as a separate case

    The tech companies want to stop terrorism as much as the government
    This way the world can see that we are united against these terrible people

    Surely we must work together and still keep our privacy !!

    There must be a way

    1. coyote · in reply to Jason Lee

      I can't help but get a very big laugh out of this:

      'stop terrorism as much as the government'

      No they do not. Governments run on fear. And there is no unison, either. The United States of America isn't all that united especially not with the world.

      The only way to keep privacy is to not make exceptions. One exception leads to a second exception which leads to a millionth, billionth, +inf exception. The reality is 'they' won decades ago and you're a living example of it.

      1. coyote · in reply to coyote

        Clarification on my part:

        Maybe tech companies don't want these things. But governments abuse fear (and actually many companies abuse fear too … fear if you don't have X you're going to be in danger for one example of many) and any claim to the contrary is exactly what they want from [their] citizens because they then have more control and a more powerful weapon (fear is so powerful that it is easy to get what you want – those who abuse terror in any form know this very well). Even if some of the leaders (seemingly) don't there will always be some that do in the respective country (and they do so to different extremities).

        1. John Scott · in reply to coyote

          May I suggest that contributors Google 'Mockingbird Project' and read Wikimedia. I suspect that some of you will not be surprised but some will. It gives an insight into a governments thinking.

          1. coyote · in reply to John Scott

            What? Governments think? That would be a surprise to me (and I find it extremely hard to believe) if it were actually true. As for this operation, it is much lesser compared to some of what the US has done (in other operations) and I'd be surprised if governments did NOT influence the media (and I would find it hard to believe that any do not). And propaganda comes to mind. No, influencing the media is not at all surprising, it's not an alarm, it's completely expected and it's nothing in comparison to some of the other things the US government (and indeed many others) is guilty of (Operation Paperclip comes to mind; the CIA experiments another; infecting people with syphilis and gonorrhoea [as I seem to remember] as another example)..

      2. John Scott · in reply to coyote

        I agree Governments love scaring their citizens as it gives them an excuse to chip away at our hard won freedoms. Even during both World War's nothing like this encroachment on our liberties was even contemplated.

        As for today's problems I suggest they can be put firmly at the door of both George W Bush and Tony Blair. Their actions invading Iraq based on what they knew was false evidence, and who like Syria was a secular state has made the world a much more dangerous place

        1. coyote · in reply to John Scott

          Yes. Governments live on fear and if they can scaremonger about fear all the better. And yes it was obvious it was a lie to anyone who understands (and knows) history and sees things in a way that unfortunately most don't. I certainly knew it was a lie but what to do? This world is barking mad and it always has been with humans because of humans. The very idea of arming rebels, arming other nations (including ironically Saddam Hussein), state sponsored coups (e.g. the US sponsored coup of Iran in .. 1953[?] which then led to the revolution in 1979 that at least the US has real problems with) – decades and decades of this and the world doesn't learn from it. Again that's because of humans.

          The west creates its own worst enemies and I would argue the west IS their worst enemy. And it's true that the US and the UK weren't as invasive during the wars, but there certainly were other regimes that were more invasive (including more invasive than the specific nations are now). But the US has a very long history of abuse and I'm afraid it includes things during WWII. This includes things the Allies condemned the Axis Powers for. Very few nations – if any – are mostly innocent and I would say none are completely innocent. There unfortunately isn't much for most people to do, though, other than try to learn for themselves and better those around them. Anyone seeking power won't understand (or appreciate) this and so yes the world is more dangerous (in some ways) than some periods but I don't think it's the most dangerous of all time.

          And THAT is why these are excuses. The examples are all similar but these events happen at different times in different ways. Every generation has risks … the Cold War was a scary time, too, including the bomb drills, the sonic booms, and so on. The only difference: technology improves and so new ways of controlling, spying and so on.

    2. Sara · in reply to Jason Lee

      Do you understand how this works?
      No, they can't just build something to open one device, it will work on all. They claim that it will only be used on the one device but once it is built it can be used endlessly.
      Look at America's track record on data retention, they will not give this up once they have it.

      No one does not want justice for San Bernadino, it was appalling but this is a dangerous precedent. It leaves people very vulnerable. You either have secure encryption or you don't.

      1. coyote · in reply to Sara

        Justice cannot be done because justice does not exist in general.

        But in this case it is especially true: the two attackers are dead and the victims are also dead so what is there to do ? Nothing but perhaps learn from it (something everyone should do but too many don't … like, say, Jason – this is indeed nothing new). There are always lessons that can be learnt and it's unthinkable and inexcusable that too many ignore them. But they do.

  14. eyecue

    There are a lot of sides to this. The courts have ruled that a warrant has to be issued to search a phone. But this phone is owned by the employer and that employer has said the FBI can search it. The owner also has a policy that says there is no reasonable expectation of privacy on their electronic communications devices (laptops, desktops, cell phones, office phones etc) The user of the phone is deceased so the privacy issue is moot. Apple has done the hacking for the FBI in the past more than once.
    Apple could take the phone and use physical connections to the chipset to get data off of it and then the security of the software is not called into question. Apple could also OOPS and destroy the data and no one would be any wiser and they would say that it was unhackable.
    The issuance of a court order for apple to get the data in the "interest on national security" is not likely to be overturned. If they persist in their position that they wont do it or cant do it, someone is going to end up with a large fine or jail.

    1. coyote · in reply to eyecue

      'The user of the phone is deceased so the privacy issue is moot.'

      I love this argument because it's absolutely ridiculous. If he's dead why does it matter what's on the phone ? It doesn't unless you actually are after power, after information that is frankly irrelevant (IS there any information at all?) to learning, making things better (something that is frequently ignored as is learning) and moving on. No, supposed information on the phone doesn't help learning especially when [they i.e. most especially those who are for this phone being unlocked] don't learn from the things that are easily there – including simple observation of the events around [them].

  15. David

    There are a few obvious features I have taken from the story that others may wish to comment on:

    * The handset is an iPhone 5C (i.e. no TouchID or Secure Enclave)
    * The handset was running iOS 9
    * The handset was provided by a local state department (the terrorist's employer)!
    * If an effective MDM policy was in place his employer could have unlocked the device
    * Apple have already provided his iCloud data to the FBI
    * Metadata from Verizon would have given a lot away (SMS, cell site locations etc.)
    * Apple can sign and install new iOS firmware (i.e. comment out the data erasure code)
    * The PIN was a simple numeric code (i.e. 4 digits) and not a complex passphrase

    * If the chip is removed and put onto a debug board then breaking the full encryption would be necessary and would take many years. (Apple entangles a unique ID on the chip along with the user passcode and some other things). However on-the-device cracking only requires trying every four-digit permutation.

    * If the firmware is modified allowing unlimited passcode attempts on the device (and/or removing the arbitrary, software (not hardware) controlled time delays)) then the actual delay would be milliseconds (not seconds, minutes or hours).

    * If the terrorist had used a complex passphrase then Apple would be able to provide absolutely no assistance. On new iPhone's this is far easier because of TouchID. This unlocks the device at the press of a finger but the full passcode is required upon reboot of the device, after 48-hours or after 5 incorrect TouchID attempts.

    * Going forward Apple may wish to entangle the user's passphrase with the boot-loader and/or prevent new firmware being installed until the device has authenticated.

    * Users wishing to secure their devices from external interference would do well to:

    – Disable iCloud (use a zero-knowledge encrypted cloud service instead)
    – Don't backup to iTunes unless you use system FDE
    – Use a complex passphrase (alphanumeric >16 characters, numbers, symbols etc.)
    – Use a modern 64-bit iPhone with the latest firmware (9.2.1) and keep it up-to-date
    – Don't use a jailbroken device – this removes significant in-built protection
    – If you suspect your device will be seized then power it down
    – Disable Siri
    – Disable access to the control centre from the lock screen
    – Ideally disable pairing using the Apple configurator tool

    The above steps prevent logical, physical and over-the-air acquisition. It also makes exhaustive key search the only (and highly impracticable) option.

    It'd be great if Apple and anybody else committed to privacy would publicise the above steps so that users can make an informed choice on whether they want to lock down their device from invasive searches.

    Well done to Apple for protecting user's privacy!

  16. Outspoken1

    I believe this is s thinly veiled move by the government to make all OSs develop a 'backdoor.' Facts: 1. The shooting was not terrorism; it was workplace violence (going 'Postal' [apologies to the Post Office workers]). The plans found at the apartment, which were never acted upon, were to attack the local college lunchroom. That would have been terrorism. 2. The primary culprits are dead. No need for a trail. 3. The US Supreme Court has ruled many times in favor in privacy (… right to be left alone…). See https://www.aclu.org/your-right-privacy for more details. 4. Encryption, while may be used by criminal organizations, is also used by legitimate organizations, oh, say, like your bank to protect your funds! 5. Terrorism (which is a tactic, not a movement. Extremism is the movement.) cannot be 'bombed' out of existence. Improving economic and social conditions diminishes the breeding grounds for terrorists – not trying to 'kill them all.'

    1. Thomas D Dial · in reply to Outspoken1

      The same considerations apply whether the event was terrorism, workplace violence, had some other basis. The issue is whether the government, in possession of a valid search warrant and the cell phone, can, command reasonable assistance from a person or company doing business in the US, Apple in this case, to execute the warrant. The law says they can, and Apple wants to argue that they cannot.

      New York is reported to have over 100 iPhones, all associated with non-terrorist criminal activity, and search warrants to examine them, that Apple is reported in at least one case to be opposing, a change from their previous policy under which they accepted such court orders and assisted law enforcement officials.

  17. Reality Bites

    So the inept NSA losers record every text, every call…. yet they are clueless…… me thinks they were clueless all along and always will be.

    Nothing like seeing trillions of dollars given to retarded parasites.

    1. coyote · in reply to Reality Bites

      'me thinks they were clueless all along and always will be.'

      You know very well this is true. There is no thinking required here. They are clueless and indeed they always will be. It's part of their job. But calling them retarded is an insult not only to those who actually are (… and there is nothing bad to say about them though it certainly is a sad situation) but a compliment to the governments (or actually more than one compliment).

  18. Jim

    I voted in support of Apple. However, it's easy to give support to someone who is defying a court order when you are not the one facing possible jail time. Tim Cook has a lot of guts saying no to a judge.

    1. David · in reply to Jim

      He's not defying the court order and nor is he "facing possible jail time.

      Apple have been given five days to respond with legal submissions. He's stating his/the company's intention to defend/appeal the court order.

      As such he's following due process and not sticking two fingers up at the court.

      Whilst I applaud Apple for taking this stance now we should be careful not to forget that previously (according to the Snowden revelations) Apple were complicit in handing over their users personal information.

      We should also bear in mind that Apple have consistently maintained that they cannot break into their own encryption. Experts have found this to be false – iMessage can be compromised by Apple as can iCloud as can iOS.

      1. Jim · in reply to David

        Then the stories being published are wrong, including the one following this article. He's not defying a court order if he has 5 days to respond. That's entirely different than defying the court.

  19. Ash

    Apple should comply with the court order. Privacy is important, but isn't it a much more dangerous and far-reaching precedent to say that people (or corporations) can choose which court orders they want to follow and which ones they don't want to follow? Apple had (or will have on appeal) it's day in court, and the choice will be to comply or face fines or imprisionment.

    The argument that the code could get out and could be used by the bad guys is bogus. I would expect that Apple would be more careful and secure with their iHackedOS source code than their regular iOS code.

    Finally, this is not a back door that could be used on all iPhones. I'm OK with Apple disabling security features on a case-by-case basis under court order, but a universal back door with a master key to unlock any phone is undeniably a horrible idea.

    1. David · in reply to Ash

      You misunderstand.

      Once Apple create a backdoor the secret knowledge will be out there.

      The FBI can't even protect the confidential information of their their own agents (a very recent leak) nor can the extremely sensitive information of 22 million government officials be kept out of the hands of hackers: names, addresses, telephone numbers, passport numbers, social security ID's, partners' information, medical history etc.

      There are an abundance of other examples out there where classified information has been stolen or leaked.

      Do you honestly believe the FBI don't know what's on the phone?
      After all we've heard about the NSA do you think that they haven't got records?
      Apple have already given his iCloud information to the FBI!
      Do you really think he'd store his secret plans on a GOVERNMENT ISSUED iPhone?

      Let's not be silly about this – the real reason the FBI want a backdoor is so they can use it in other cases and to provoke public debate.

      Obama has already said he doesn't want backdoors, so have the top men in the NSA, CIA, US Air Force and Army. Do you know better than these experts?

      The only people calling for this are the FBI. If they wanted access (and not a reusable backdoor) they'd have sent his phone off to the NSA.

      1. Ash · in reply to David

        Its my understanding that Apple was ordered to bypass security on this one specific phone, not to give the FBI the ability to disable security on all phones. Apple would retain control of the source code used to disable the phone security. Does the court order state otherwise?

      2. Thomas D Dial · in reply to David

        "The knowledge" already is "out there" in practical terms. There almost certainly are numerous people and agencies, in the US and elsewhere, with the knowledge, skills, and access to appropriate specialized equipment, who could access, dissassemble, and modify the necessary code to do what the FBI needs done. Absent digital signing of the code by Apple they could not install and run it on the targeted device.

        1. Ash · in reply to Thomas D Dial

          Thanks, Thomas, those are really good points that I haven't heard before now. If Apple crates iHackedOS, digitally signs it, and pushes it to this one device, would there be any risk of exposure of Apple's digital signature so that others with bad intent could do the same on other devices? How would that be any different from Apple pushing out legitimate OS updates?

          I'm still struggling to understand what the greater risk is if Apple does what the FBI and the court has asked.

          1. coyote · in reply to Ash

            'I'm still struggling to understand what the greater risk is if Apple does what the FBI and the court has asked.'

            Precedent. And even to those who say otherwise, I have this to remind them of: this is only one example of many others and many more will follow. Exceptions happen for a reason, do they not? What is that reason and could it happen again?

            Besides, it betrays trust of customers. And encryption keeps us all safer than would be otherwise (even if not 100%). The list goes ever on.

  20. Old time guy

    Tough call but I'am with Apple.NYC states they have 175 phones they need to get info from.It will just go on and on from this point.
    As it was a government phone perhaps they should have assigned a code prior to handing it to a employee.

  21. Minnie

    If you lock your keys in your car and you get a locksmith to unlock the car, do you know how to do it if it happens again? Highly unlikely. All Apple has to do is provide the data on the phone, not the route to getting it. Stop the BS and chest beating and comply else don't go bitching about the FBI, CIA, NSA or whomever next time some IS sympathising nutter takes out a swag of innocence.

    1. coyote · in reply to Minnie

      It's the government (in this case the FBI) that is dealing with 'BS' as you put it. Your analogy fails anyway. You can learn locksmithing and when you hire a locksmith you're GIVING THEM PERMISSION; the FBI is bitching at (again as you put it) Apple because they don't have their way, much like a spoilt brat who doesn't get his way. Yes, that's exactly what the FBI are – and they are incredibly good at it, too.

  22. David

    I side with Apple. I think they should change iOS 10 so that the phone gets wiped if the software or firmware is updated, and the phone is not unlocked.

  23. coyote

    Too bad Apple can't sabotage the phone without the FBI giving them grief…

    1. Thomas D Dial · in reply to coyote

      What you are suggesting would be a criminal offense, unlike what Apple is doing now, which is legal action coupled with a public relations campaign.

      1. coyote · in reply to Thomas D Dial

        I am aware of that. That's why I added 'too bad'. I wish they could and if there was a way for them to cover it up I'd be all for it – but it'd be suspected and the FBI would manipulate things so in the end it wouldn't work without legal trouble (legal trouble they'd have less of a chance fighting than what they have now). The FBI is asking for it as is any one who tries to force someone to do something.

        But I don't care as long as the phone remains inaccessible.

  24. Anthony Twamley

    To all the people who say no –
    If a family member of yours, parent, child ,grandchild had been kidnapped and the location was available on a locked iPhone would you not demand that Apple open this Phone?
    This is a legislative must when needs be in any appropriate situation, all that is asked is for Apple to open this individual phone and provide the required information.
    No politics, no technical rubbish, no extreme views or beliefs. Just logical commonsense which we are all capable of.

    1. coyote · in reply to Anthony Twamley

      Nope. I wouldn't.

      Privacy is important. For everyone. If you disagree please kindly fork over your information – all of it. One exception leads to more exceptions and that's a problem. It's been proven many times over in the past and it should be obvious too – it's basic understanding of how humans function.

      In fact, I would argue the court not go for it. Not only does going for it prolong the case, it keeps wounds open. There are no legitimate reasons to continue this. What's done is done. The FBI only wants control and nothing else.

    2. coyote · in reply to Anthony Twamley

      Had not closed the tab and saw this again.

      I want to point something else out: when you (try to as often is the case) force something out of someone – whether by torture, threats or anything else – you're being an enemy to them AND they're not going to be nearly as helpful (and might give you false information). So if you really wanted them to reveal the location you would do much better being kind to them (one simplified thing of others) .. something that far too many fail to appreciate or even understand (in gathering information and otherwise).

      Yes, in this case the person is dead but in this case also there are (last I knew) no suspected abductions and it isn't even known what is on the phone (if anything useful at all). And those are irrelevant to your (flawed and ignorant of how humans act) hypothetical question in any case.

  25. Bob

    People may be interested to know that Apple WERE going to create the tool the FBI wanted on the condition that they kept it a secret. As a result Apple pleaded with the FBI to make their court application "under seal" but instead the FBI released it to the world.

    Story from the New York Times:

    "Apple had asked the F.B.I. to issue its application for the tool under seal. But the government made it public, prompting Mr. Cook to go into bunker mode to draft a response, according to people privy to the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The result was the letter that Mr. Cook signed on Tuesday, where he argued that it set a “dangerous precedent” for a company to be forced to build tools for the government that weaken security."


    1. coyote · in reply to Bob

      Thanks for that, Bob. Shame…

      1. Bob · in reply to coyote

        Here's a perspective from Albert Gidari of Stanford Law School.

        Section 1002(b)(1) of CALEA suggests that the government CANNOT compel Apple under the All Writs Act.

        (1) Design of features and systems configurations. This subchapter does not authorize any law enforcement agency or office

        (a) to require any specific design of equipment, facilities, services, features, or system configurations to be adopted by any provider of a wire or electronic communication service, any manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, or any provider of telecommunications support services;

        (b) to prohibit the adoption of any equipment, facility, service, or feature by any provider of a wire or electronic communication service, any manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, or any provider of telecommunications support services.

        1. Bob · in reply to Bob


        2. Thomas D Dial · in reply to Bob

          That seems somewhat strained, although Apple probably should include it in their appeal of the order. The government certainly would argue against it that they are not demanding a change to the "specific design, facilities, services, features, or configuration," but only a transitory modification to behavior of an existing system as implemented in a single device.

          And the passage concerned here is, of course, within a law that states a requirement to have certain capabilities in order to provide for execution of warrants. It might be interesting to look into whether, in the present context, other parts of CALEA could be interpreted to the government's benefit.

        3. coyote · in reply to Bob

          Thanks, Bob!

          Still, even if they can't they could try to change it so they can (and only a blind fool would think they wouldn't even if they haven't done similar in the past). And it doesn't change the fact Apple was supposedly willing to work with the FBI here if they kept it secret. Maybe the Times is wording it in a way that is (deliberately) ambiguous in which case it isn't as bad as it seems but bias tells me Apple is the (more correctly 'a') problem here (even though I'd like to believe otherwise).

          I hope Apple doesn't comply in any case, even if they would have before, because what matters in the end is that phone remains locked.

          1. Bob · in reply to coyote

            I don't think it is the New York Times re-wording it.

            If you take a look at the government filing you'll notice that the FBI refer to numerous cases where Apple have assisted (even when their webpage suggested it was technically "impossible" to do so).


  26. Julie

    It has been said that two destroyed cell phones were already found. Phone in question was an employer's phone owned by the county. As it was the county's property, is it not possible that it wasn't even used for personal or planning information? If Farook destroyed two other phones stands to reason there isn't anything useful on the iPhone. If FBI had county change password on cloud storage why don't they use that information? Seems strange so much time, money and effort is being used to get this information but yet we do not know who is entering our country – even legally.

    1. coyote · in reply to Julie

      'Seems strange so much time, money and effort is being used to get this information '

      Do you really think that strange? I hope you don't. It's quite expected which not only makes the problem worse it creates an additional problem or two (being themselves and not recognising how ridiculous and misguided they are).

    2. Mark Jacobs · in reply to Julie

      Lends credence to what I posted above.

  27. Thomas D Dial

    This case is not about encryption, it is not about terrorism, and it is not about surveillance. It presents no fourth amendment or privacy issue. The case is about whether the US government can demand a reasonable amount of effort from a US corporation, presumably with reasonable compensation, to enforce a lawfully obtained search warrant. The government's demand is based on a law in force for 227 years with which Apple and others have complied many times. Apple and others have said the application is unprecedented; it is not. Some have said that changed technology renders this old law obsolete; that also is untrue, just as it is untrue that new technology obsoletes the Constitution, which is only months older. Apple has hinted, and others stated flatly, that what the government asks for will provide a general purpose back door for search of Apple devices; that also is untrue. What Apple has not said is that they cannot provide the required aid, something that if true would provide an unquestionably valid defense.

    1. coyote · in reply to Thomas D Dial

      Keyword: amendment.

      In any case, this most certainly is about encryption. And surveillance. And power. The other isn't relevant because it's only their excuse. And it is precedented in that an exception leads to exceptions and disabling the security for one device means more will follow. This is exactly what the FBI wants. Only fools would think (or hope) otherwise. There is always an excuse and it often is the same excuse even when they get what they want repeatedly (too many blindly accept the lies that they need more of the same thing in order to solve the problem .. sorry to break it to them but there is no solving this problem and in fact THEY are the REAL problem).

      1. Thomas D Dial · in reply to coyote

        The case is not about encryption: the government is requesting help to circumvent the security of a single device by removing limits on the number of pass codes they may enter and how quickly they may enter them. It is not about surveillance: the government has the phone in its possession and what they are asking for is useless for surveillance. It is not unprecedented: Apple has assisted law enforcement agencies in the past to unlock devices based on the same legal authorities. It certainly is about power, or more correctly, authority, defined conventionally as the right to issue orders and expect obedience.

        It is certain that if this order is enforced it will set a specific precedent and will be followed by numerous others, probably beginning with those for which the state of New York already has warrants. It also is certain that it will be followed by similar orders in other countries where Apple does business under the laws of those countries. In some cases the US might, under treaty arrangements, order Apple to provide assistance. It is not unreasonable to think that, worldwide, Apple might receive a few tens of thousands of such requests annually. It is understandable that Apple would like to avoid this, from the viewpoint of both effort and marketing.

        This is ordinary law enforcement activity, not different in principle from a case in which a safe company might be asked to help execute a search warrant involving a safe by working out the combination. The US Constitution provided for lawful government search under limited conditions and authorized the Congress to enact supporting laws. Other sovereign nations undoubtedly have comparable arrangements, some less restrictive on the government, and some more so.

        1. coyote · in reply to Thomas D Dial

          Encryption and surveillance go hand in hand. In addition, encryption is what they want to get around. How is that not about encryption then? The FBI has also whined about encryption even though it protects them too (banking websites for example?) Power is also related indeed. They want to control and they want to have everything they want (and they continue to desire more and more even with the same reasoning) in their way and only their way. It's true they 'only' (note the singular quotes) want an exception but it'll only lead to further exceptions and in any case the implications also matter (and these implications include things people have not thought of yet). The thing is they want encryption weakened so they can spy more easily. This all means you can say it isn't about encryption or any number of things but that is all semantics.

          Yet your latter paragraphs seem to me to be contradictory to your former claims (perhaps there are some slight differences or specific examples but my points are still valid).

          As for the constitution (which as far as my concerns are irrelevant): I frankly don't care about the US constitution because it's broken by design as far as I am concerned. Even if it wasn't initially the US government is broken for decades (but this isn't surprising, really, and it isn't unique to the US .. name one government that isn't defunct). And in fact if I was unfortunate enough to have a copy I'd pay someone to take it away from me.

          'It is not unreasonable to think that, worldwide, Apple might receive a few tens of thousands of such requests annually.'
          Probably true. And they obviously hide things, too (this includes their intentions). But this phone should still remain locked.

        2. Bob · in reply to Thomas D Dial

          Thomas D Dial –

          Ex-NSA, CIA chief Michael Hayden sides with Apple in FBI iPhone encryption fight.


          1. Mark Jacobs · in reply to Bob

            Lends credence to what I posted above.

  28. Rocky

    All you apple supporters are liberal nuts !!!! You need to understand that tha govt doesn't want your goofy unimportant Facebook meaningless communications !!! Stop living in the virtual wonderland and live in the real world ok ! Oh wait that might not be possible if some Islamic terrorist communicates with a cell to mastermind a mass killing somewhere you or your family might be at then would it ? I guess it's an invasion of your privacy to be searched at an airport too prior to boarding a flight . If you don't have anything to hide then you shouldn't worry about your privacy over the protection of saving real lives by thwarting future attacks of innocent people !

    1. Bob · in reply to Rocky

      Right and you know better than the former chief of the NSA and CIA?

      His very role was the suppression of terrorism and the gathering of intelligence. Where are your credentials to contradict him?


  29. Peter...the 'liberal socialist' :-)

    Wow Rocky! What an apt monika! I can imagine you now with your 'right to bare arms' – just roll down your sleeves!

    I do love that some Americans use the term 'liberal' as an insult, when in actuality it's a virtue.

    However, much as I would hope that a 'liberal' government would not insist on back-doors to every product and the keys to decrypt whatever they wish, whenever they wish thereby rendering the world's financial systems void of all probity, the same cannot be said of authoritarian, fascist regimes that may wish for instance to build a wall between the USA and Mexico!!

    Yes people, support Apple in this and oppose the FBI's request because the possibility of Trump leading the USA next brings bring shivers to right thinking citizen of every country.

    I've suddenly gone cold!

  30. Rodney

    Surely all that is required is that the FBI give the phone to Apple and ask them to crack the the phone's pin. Then having unlocked it Apple give the phone back to thev FBI with the pin. End of drama !!

  31. Thomas Jefferson

    Encryption is a tool not unlike handguns. The tool may be misused to commit a crime but in over 99% of cases its use is lawful, even necessary to protect intangible property. The misuse of the tool by the few should not jeopardize the availability of the tool for law-abiding citizens or allow the government to diminish the robustness of the technology in its current state of the art.

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