Apple encryption fracas about 'victims and justice': FBI chief

February 22, 2016
US investigators want to hack into an iPhone belonging to Syed Farook, who along with his wife Tashfeen Malik went on a shooting
US investigators want to hack into an iPhone belonging to Syed Farook, who along with his wife Tashfeen Malik went on a shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California killing 14

A court order the US government requested to force Apple to unlock an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino shooting rampage is about "the victims and justice," FBI Director James Comey said.

In his first public remarks since Apple CEO Tim Cook said he would fight the federal magistrate's order, Comey said the Justice Department's request is simply about gaining access to the locked phone.

"We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land," Comey said in a posting that appeared on the lawfareblog.org site late Sunday.

Investigators want to hack into an iPhone belonging to the late Syed Farook, a US citizen who along with his wife Tashfeen Malik went on a shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California that killed 14 people on December 2.

Apple claims that cooperating with the FBI probe would undermine overall security for its devices.

"The San Bernardino litigation isn't about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message," Comey said. "It is about the victims and justice."

According to Comey, the "particular legal issue is actually quite narrow... We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist's passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That's it.

Apple claims that cooperating with an FBI demand to unlock the iPhone of the the San Bernardino shooter would undermine overall
Apple claims that cooperating with an FBI demand to unlock the iPhone of the the San Bernardino shooter would undermine overall security for all its devices worldwide

The phone may or may not hold important clues. "But we can't look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don't follow this lead," he wrote.

This case highlights the new technology that creates "tension between two values we all treasure: privacy and safety. That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living.

"It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living. It should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before."

Finding "the right place, the right balance, will matter to every American for a very long time" said the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Both Apple CEO Tim Cook and Comey have been invited to testify about encryption on Capitol Hill.

Explore further: Apple ordered to hack San Bernardino shooter's iPhone

Related Stories

Q&A: A look at the Apple vs US Justice Dept. court fight

February 17, 2016

A U.S. magistrate judge has ordered Apple to help the FBI break into a work-issued iPhone used by a gunman in the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Apple chief executive Tim Cook immediately objected, setting the ...

US unable to crack San Bernardino attacker's phone

February 10, 2016

US agents cannot access a telephone used by the Islamist attackers in the San Bernardino shooting, the head of the FBI said Tuesday, complaining that encryption is hampering investigations.

Profit or patriotism? What's driving fight between US, Apple

February 18, 2016

Battling in intense public broadsides, Apple Inc. and the government are making their cases before anyone steps into a courtroom over a judge's order forcing Apple to help the FBI hack into an iPhone in a sensational terrorism ...

Apple to fight order to help FBI unlock shooter's iPhone

February 17, 2016

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook says his company will fight a federal magistrate's order to help the FBI hack into an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino, California shooters. The company said that could potentially ...

Recommended for you

Swiss unveil stratospheric solar plane

December 7, 2016

Just months after two Swiss pilots completed a historic round-the-world trip in a Sun-powered plane, another Swiss adventurer on Wednesday unveiled a solar plane aimed at reaching the stratosphere.

Solar panels repay their energy 'debt': study

December 6, 2016

The climate-friendly electricity generated by solar panels in the past 40 years has all but cancelled out the polluting energy used to produce them, a study said Tuesday.

Wall-jumping robot is most vertically agile ever built

December 6, 2016

Roboticists at UC Berkeley have designed a small robot that can leap into the air and then spring off a wall, or perform multiple vertical jumps in a row, resulting in the highest robotic vertical jumping agility ever recorded. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dbsi
5 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2016
Why is the obvious not tried?

Option (a):
1. Specify exact phone type
2. set out a hefty bounty for the hacking of that type
3. let demonstrate successful hack process and assess it for security/reliability
4. optionally sell the hack back to apple

Option (b):
1. locate the storage component containing the relevant data
2. make copies, possibly virtual ones
3. use brute force

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.