Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has no choice but to decrypt the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. A US federal issued an order reiterating that the tech giant should supply the FBI with software to decrypt Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone.
Impact of Ruling
The ruling is at the center of a legal debate as the federal government struggles to find ways around strong encryption used in modern cell phones. Apple finds itself in a tight spot as more decryption requests are sent by government officials. The firm is already awaiting a ruling on a similar case involving a methamphetamine dealer.
These requests are expected to fuel the fire of an already heated debate on the balance between national security and personal privacy. In Farook’s case officials say they would not be able to access the phone even if they received permission from the suspect’s employer who owned the phone.
Officials are hesitant to try cracking the passcode due to concerns regarding a user-enabled auto-erase function. Officials are uncertain whether the auto-erase function is enabled as all data could be erased after ten failed passcode tries. As it stands Apple is the only one that can check whether the function is enabled or disabled.
Apple began making encrypted cell phones in 2014. It says this is part of an effort ensuring users remain in full control of their data. Such measures are also designed to shield against cyber-attacks.
Under the All Writs Act, federal courts can issue orders for phone companies to open up encryptions in matters of national security. However, there are set limits to which the act is applicable. Apple has already raised concerns that the act if manipulated could end up giving law enforcement agencies avenues for vendor provided backdoors.
Federal Judge Sheri Pym in his ruling reiterated Apple does not have to turn off its encryption. However, it has to make it easier for agents to guess the iPhone’s passcode. The tech giant has five days from the receipt of the order to appeal the court rulings should it find it burdensome.