Apple finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place while the world watches to see how it wriggles out. Not that Apple is in any way hiding from the public—in a recent television interview with ABC News, Tim Cook offered some expanded thoughts on why he's not willing to comply with a court order to assist the FBI with breaking into an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters.
The overarching fear is that creating a backdoor into a secured iPhone would set a dangerous precedent, one that could later be abused. Cook is adamant that such a thing would put hundreds of millions of iPhone users at risk, both abroad and here in the U.S. He even went so far as to say that the necessary code to break into an iPhone would be the "software equivalent of cancer," which happens to be the very disease that took the life of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Image Source: Flickr (Kārlis Dambrāns)
To some, that comparison may seem in bad taste, but it speaks to how passionately Cook feels about the matter, one that Cook readily admits is an "incredibly complex issue." The San Bernardino shooters left 14 people dead and several others injured, and there may be additional clues stored away inside the iPhone that's now in the FBI's possession. That's where things get tricky.
The iPhone is secured with a passcode. One of iOS's security measures is to wipe out all data after 10 consecutive failed attempts. What the FBI wants is for Apple to build and apply a firmware update that would remove several of the iPhone's safeguards, thus allowing the FBI to hammer the iPhone with repeated passcode guesses at the speed of a modern PC.
For Cook, there's much more at stake here than the contents of a single iPhone.
"There's probably more information about you on your phone then there is in your house. Our smartphones are loaded with our intimate conversations, our financial data, our health records. They're also loaded with the location of our kids in many cases. And so it's not just about privacy, but it's also about public safety.," Cook said.
Cook went on to say that in a perfect world where something like this wouldn't set a precedent or leave hundreds of millions of iPhones vulnerable, he'd have no qualms about assisting the FBI. Unfortunately for all involved, we don't live in such a place.
"Some things are hard and some things are right, and some things are both. This is one of those things," Cook said.