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Apple CEO Tim Cook: FBI's Backdoor Would Be 'Software Equivalent of Cancer'

Apple CEO Tim Cook today spoke with ABC News anchor David Muir, explaining Apple's decision to object to the court order that would require it to help the FBI break into the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December attack in San Bernardino, California.

In the interview, Cook reiterated much of what he wrote in the open letter where he announced Apple's plans to stand against the government and oppose the order to create a backdoor into iOS devices.

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According to Cook, the software the FBI wants to use to brute force the passcode on Farook's iPhone would be "the equivalent of cancer" that has the potential to put hundreds of millions of Apple's customers at risk.
The only way to get information -- at least currently, the only way we know -- would be to write a piece of software that we view as sort of the software equivalent of cancer. We think it's bad news to write. We would never write it. We have never written it. And that is what is at stake here.
He went on to say that the fulfilling the FBI's request could set a precedent that eventually leads to weaker smartphone encryption. "If a court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they could ask us to write," said Cook. "I don't know where this stops. But I do know this is not what should be happening in this country."



Cook says Apple has cooperated fully with the FBI, giving all of the information that it could provide. He said opposing the government "doesn't feel right" and that it's a "very uncomfortable position." He also expressed deep sympathy for the families impacted by the attack and said he wished the FBI had contacted Apple before changing the Apple ID password on the phone, making it impossible to get an additional iCloud backup. According to Cook, Apple first heard about the FBI's initial filing from the press.
"We gave everything we had. We don't know that there's any information on the phone. We don't know whether there is or there isn't. And the FBI doesn't know. What we do know is we passed all of the information that we have on the phone and to get additional information on it or at least what the FBI would like us to do now would expose hundreds of millions of people to issues.""
Cook explained that Apple is not just protecting the data on one phone, it's protecting the data on the devices of all of its customers. He says if Apple knew a way to get the information on the phone that would not expose millions of customers to issues, the company would do it. "This is about the future," he said. "As people understand what is at stake here, an increasing number support us."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.



Top Rated Comments

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10 months ago
Could this be Apple's finest hour?

Practicing what they have preached for years, putting their money where their mouth is, risking a lot of bad publicity.

It would have been so easy to back down at the start.

I remember the criticism Cook and Apple got for being outspoken on social issues, especially around discrimination and equal marriage. The argument being a company should keep out of governance, and just do their thing. And such a short time later we see how vital outspoken companies now are: defending the public against government encroachment on civil liberties and triggering a global debate that will probably wind up in the supreme court.

Whatever your opinion, Apple and Cook's steadfast commitment has to be admired.
Rating: 70 Votes
10 months ago
My grandma had cancer and I'm not offended. He's absolutely right, and it gets people's attention.
Rating: 51 Votes
10 months ago

Hey Tim,

I have Stage IV Pancreatic cancer. Doubt it.

I think a more appropriate analogy would be something that can spread through contact/exposure. Maybe you are too sensitive to the mention of AIDS/HIV.


Your passive aggressive homophobic comment is worse.
Rating: 49 Votes
10 months ago
Jony Ive is the hardware equivalent of cancer...making the battery thinner and everything.
Rating: 32 Votes
10 months ago
Hey Tim,

I have Stage IV Pancreatic cancer. Doubt it.

I think a more appropriate analogy would be something that can spread through contact/exposure. Maybe you are too sensitive to the mention of AIDS/HIV.
Rating: 29 Votes
10 months ago
I don't know how anyone can watch this interview and think this is all marketing. Cook said Apple will take this to the Supreme Court if necessary. It's pretty sad that others in the tech community have been so weak in their support of Apple so far.
Rating: 26 Votes
10 months ago
How can anyone think that the answer to the problem of ending the use terrorism to establish an Islamic Caliphate lies on some a***ole thug's iPhone 5c? Seriously. The whole notion is so wildly ridiculous. You want to stop terrorism? Crush any and all hope these extremists have that they will ever achieve that goal. It would take two weeks for this nation to crush that pipsqueak ideology permanently, if only it would stand up for itself.

Some people shot some people in the name of an ideology which our leaders are not only not willing to crush, but some of whom are not even willing to acknowledge exists. The advocates of this ideology don't pay with their lives, but we all pay with our freedom and privacy. Let's drop the sideshow delusions...
Rating: 25 Votes
10 months ago

In typical fashion Apple as a corporation is grandstanding.

Why not use their other practice, of working in silence behind closed doors. Certainly there's a way to work in secret with the government, without all the showing off in public. But no, instead they're busy self congratulating, posturing and acting superior.

Claiming to put privacy and customers first they know they have a huge number of users that believe Apple's every word. Leveraging their followers Apple knows no boundaries. Once again their culture of narcissism raises it's ugly repulsive head.

The FBI brought this public, not Apple. Your soapbox rant is for nothing.
Rating: 24 Votes
10 months ago
I don't like how he's using a terrible disease as a metaphor for this scenario, but that's just me.
Rating: 22 Votes
10 months ago

I don't like how he's using a terrible disease as a metaphor for this scenario, but that's just me.

You'll be ok.

Oh and full disclosure.... my father died of cancer. I have ZERO issue with him using the analogy.
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Just make the software, make sure nobody takes it home, and steal the iPhone's information in a closed room. He's probably afraid to do it because then people would know that the iPhone can be broken.

And for the last time, "backdoor" is the wrong term for what he's describing. I know he's just saying it to scare people and take blame off of Apple. It's apparent that someone (Apple or other) can make an alternate iOS and steal information by installing it, so that itself is the security vulnerability. Apple is being asked to exploit a known vulnerability, not create a new one. A backdoor would be if Apple knowingly put a vulnerability into iOS so it could be later exploited.

I'm sick of this guy's BS.

LoL.... so you feel you know more about what it "is" than the man that runs the company? Have a bit of an over inflated view of yourself do we? Overall I'm no fan of Apple's but with this stand I am now a fan for life. I'm in the military and have seen my brothers and sisters in arms die..... over and over again so Tim protecting my privacy..... is awesome.
Rating: 14 Votes

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