San Bernardino victims side with FBI in iPhone decryption fight

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Lawyers representing families of the victims of the San Bernardino shooting massacre plan to file a legal brief in support of the United States Department of Justice’s demand that Apple help unlock the shooter’s iPhone 5c by creating a one-off version of iOS to permit brute-force attacks electronically, without the phone slowing down the process or erasing its contents after 10 failed attempts.

According to Reuters, Stephen Larson, a former federal judge who is now in private practice and represents families of the victims, was contacted a week ago by the Justice Department and local prosecutors about representing the victims, prior to the dispute becoming public.

“They were targeted by terrorists, and they need to know why, how this could happen,” Larson said, declining to say how many victims he represents.

“We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected,” wrote Apple CEO Tim Cook in last week’s message to customers, adding that “We have no sympathy for terrorists”.

Arguing that creating an iPhone backdoor would be the equivalent of a master key capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks, Apple has maintained that it has “done everything that’s both within our power and within the law to help in this case.”

“We strongly believe the only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn’t abused and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is to never create it,” said the firm.

Larson will file an amicus brief in court by early March.

Apple has received additional time to respond to the court order, which it plans to fight, and now has until February 26 to respond to the government’s demand. A hearing will be held at 1:00pm Pacific on March 22 in a California federal court.

How Apple protects iPhone Bloomberg infographic 001
Bloomberg’s infographic helps explain how Apple protects iPhones.

Apple’s company-wide memo and public Q&A, both of which made rounds this morning, follow its special message to customers that appeared on last week.

Signed by Tim Cook, the message vehemently opposes the FBI’s request to create a one-off version of iOS with decreased security, arguing that creating a backdoor into the iPhone would undermine everyone’s security.

According to FBI Director James Comey, the San Bernardino litigation “isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message,” it’s “about the victims and justice”.

Read our recap of last week’s events in the FBI vs. Apple case.

Source: Reuters