Apple CEO posts an open letter opposing government order to hack iPhones

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 17, 2016 16:51 IST
Apple CEO Tim Cook has posted an open letter underlining the threats of a request made by the FBI for help hacking into the iPhone. (AFP)

Apple CEO Tim Cook has posted an open letter underlining the threats of a request made by the FBI for help hacking into the iPhone. The open letter written in a simple and straightforward tone states, “This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.”

The US government demanded that Apple help them hack into a phone recovered during an investigation into the San Bernardino case, to get access to the data stored on it. While the request seems harmless, the software landing in the wrong hands could make the iPhone easier to hack -- causing more harm than good.

Read more: Judge: Apple must help US hack San Bernardino killer’s phone

The letter reads, “The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.”

While Cook took a strong stand against the ruling, early in the letter, he expressed his sadness and outrage toward the attack. However, he also wrote, “

We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December. 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.

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.”

This isn’t the first time Cook has expressed his unhappiness with the authorities’ attempt to jeopardise the security of Apple iPhone users. On his interview on 60 minutes, he took a firm stand for security and privacy of Apple users while calling the request an easy way out that isn’t going to serve as a solution.

Cook explained the request before stating the possible dangers that the request could unfold. Explaining the kind of backdoor authorities have asked for, he wrote, “

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

Agreeing with the FBI on their intentions, Cook reaffirmed that Apple solemnly stands against the requesting and they do not take opposing the government lightly.

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