It's what the Wall Street Journal describes as a "watershed moment" in the fight over smartphone encryption: A court has ordered Apple to obey the government's demand to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, and Tim Cook is refusing to do so. The CEO released a letter Tuesday night explaining that Apple would challenge what it views as a "chilling" demand from the FBI—to create what Cook calls a "backdoor" to iPhone security measures. "The U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create," he writes. If the government gets this ability to tap into Syed Rizwan Farook's phone, it could tap into any iPhone, says Cook.
"The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor," writes Cook. "And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control." One specific thing the government wants is for Apple to disable a feature that wipes a phone's data if an incorrect password is typed 10 times in a row, reports CNET. If that goes away, the FBI could then mount a "brute force" attack on the phone by attempting countless passwords until one strikes gold. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is siding with Apple, saying the government essentially wants an iPhone "master key" that could be used over and over, reports the New York Times.