What exactly is going on with Apple, the FBI and the San Bernardino attack? Here are five key points

Published February 21st, 2016 - 11:12 GMT
The FBI is attempting to gain access to information of Syed Farook’s phone, but that is not as easy as it might seem. (AFP/File)
The FBI is attempting to gain access to information of Syed Farook’s phone, but that is not as easy as it might seem. (AFP/File)

On February 16, Apple was ordered by a federal judge to create software which would enable the FBI to work out the four-digit passcode on Syed Farook’s phone. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, carried out a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, on December 2, 2015, which left 14 people dead. The couple were later killed by police in a shootout.

The case is back in the headlines following Apple’s refusal to comply with the court order. Here are five key points about the current situation.

1. Apple has said that if it complied with the court order, then user trust would be severely violated. In addition to this, the company contends that the security of its products would be in jeopardy and it would be going against one of its core principles as a business.

2. The phone was apparently owned by San Bernardino County government, Farook’s employer. The FBI wants data which is on the phone, but can only access the data which has been backed up into Apple’s iCloud service. Apple has already handed the iCloud data over to the FBI, but the backups only go back to October 19, six weeks prior to the shooting.

3. The password to the iCloud was changed remotely by the county shortly after the shooting took place. This further complicates matters, as the phone is now not able to auto-backup when in wifi because of security measures, as would normally be the case. The data currently on the phone is therefore inaccessible, unless Apple creates software to “hack” it.

4. Apple, with the support of Google, Whatsapp and Edward Snowden, is willing to fight the FBI in court over the matter. The FBI may employ the vague All Writs Act of 1789 (yes, 1789, hundreds of years before the iPhone was invented) which states that federal courts can issue “all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” Which basically means that judges can tell people to follow the law, so long as they tell them in a lawful way.

5. The case has divided the nation, with many people supporting Apple’s attempt to keep users’ information private, while others argue that the company is endangering national security.


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