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Apple and the FBI

October 22, 2018

On December 2, 2015, a terrorist attack was commited in San Bernardino, California. Two men attempted to plant bombs in the Inland Regional Center, and killed 14 people; the terrorists were finally shot down. One of them had an iPhone 5C on him at the moment of the attack, so the FBI collected it to try to access the device in order to collect some intel and go further in the investigation. Of course, the smartphone was secured by a 4 digit code.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO

The NSA (National Security Agency) said they would crack the iPhone, so they had the idea to use a technique called “brute force”. This technique consists in trying every possible combination until finding the right one that will unlock the smartphone. However, it was impossible to unlock the device this way without losing the data, because the iPhone would reset itself after 50 failed combinations. The FBI then asked Apple to collaborate by providing a software that could unlock the device without erasing the data from it.

Even if Apple is capable of creating such a software, Tim Cook refused to do that because he considered this solution very dangerous; he explained that this software could be a universal key for every iPhone in the world. Apple would violate its privacy policy by providing this kind of “backdoor” to the government, and in the worst case, some hackers could manage to steal it.

Some tensions emerged to the extent that the FBI wanted to sue Apple for that. Later they decided to use a third party organisation composed of extremely qualified hackers. Some rumors have it that the FBI spent more than a million dollars on this case. They finally managed to access the iPhone without finding any useful information for the investigation, and the way the organisation used to crack the device remains a secret…

If I mention this case it is because another similar appeared a year ago, still with Apple. Both cases led to heated debate regarding Apple’s attitude. Some approved of their refusal to break their customers’ privacy while others denounced Apple’s lack of cooperation and their outrageous prices, deeming them too selfish.

Political cartoon for Los Angeles Sentinel


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