Apple Opposes Order to Unlock San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone

Tim Cook - H 2015
AP Images/Invision

Tim Cook - H 2015

In an open letter, CEO Tim Cook called the government's demands "chilling."

Apple has responded to a court ruling that it must help the FBI break into an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooters. 

On Tuesday, a judge in the Federal District Court for the District of Central California ordered Apple to assist the FBI in disabling security features on an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed along with his wife after shooting his co-workers at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. The FBI recovered the iPhone following the attack, which resulted in 14 deaths. 

CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday morning posted an open letter on the Apple website opposing the order.

"We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good," Cook writes. "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."

He goes on to explain that the FBI has asked Apple to "make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features" to install on the iPhone recovered during its investigation of the San Bernardino shooting. 

"Building a version of the iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor," Cook adds. "And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control." 

Cook acknowledges the attacks in his letter. "We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December," he writes. "We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected. The FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists."

He continues: "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."