Apple Calls FBI Comments on Lack of Help Unlocking Florida Shooter’s iPhone an ‘Excuse to Weaken Encryption’

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The United States FBI and Attorney General William Barr in January asked Apple to unlock the iPhones used in a mass shooting at a naval air station in Pensacola, Florida, a capability that Apple has said time and time again that it does not have.


Today, the FBI confirmed that it was able to access shooter Mohammed Alshamrani’s device, with FBI director Christoper Wray claiming that the FBI received “effectively no help” from Apple. Attorney general William Barr said it was a “great disappointment” that Apple refused to help investigators. From Barr:

“Apple has made a business and marketing decision to design its phones in a way that only the user can unlock the contents no matter what the circumstances. In cases like this, where the user is a terrorist, or in other cases where the user is a violent criminal, a human trafficker, a child predator, Apple’s decision has dangerous consequences for the public safety and the national security and is in my judgment unacceptable.”

Apple issued a statement in response, which was shared by Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman. In the statement, Apple details the steps that it took to assist the FBI, providing iCloud backups, account information, and transactional information for multiple accounts just hours after the attack.

The terrorist attack on members of the US armed services at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida was a devastating and heinous act. Apple responded to the FBI’s first requests for information just hours after the attack on December 6, 2019 and continued to support law enforcement during their investigation. We provided every piece of information available to us, including ‌iCloud‌ backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts, and we let continuous and ongoing technical and investigative support to FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola, and New York over the months since.

Apple went on to say that the comments made by Wray and Barr about the company’s lack of help are little more than an “excuse to weaken encryption.”

On this and many thousands of other cases, we continue to work around-the-clock with the FBI and other investigators who keep Americans safe and bring criminals to justice. As a proud American company, we consider supporting law enforcement’s important work our responsibility. The false claims made about our company are an excuse to weaken encryption and other security measures that protect millions of users and our national security.

It is because we take our responsibility to national security so seriously that we do not believe in the creation of a backdoor — one which will make every device vulnerable to bad actors who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. There is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys, and the American people do not have to choose between weakening encryption and effective investigations.

Customers count on Apple to keep their information secure and one of the ways in which we do so is by using strong encryption across our devices and servers. We sell the same iPhone everywhere, we don’t store customers’ passcodes and we don’t have the capacity to unlock passcode-protected devices. In data centers, we deploy strong hardware and software security protections to keep information safe and to ensure there are no backdoors into our systems. All of these practices apply equally to our operations in every country in the world.

As it has done in multiple prior disputes with U.S. law enforcement officials, Apple reiterated that there is no such thing as a backdoor designed only for the good guys. Weakening encryption in Apple devices would leave them vulnerable to attack from malicious entities, which could compromise not only customer data, but also national security.

Apple says that customers can count on the company to keep their information secure with strong encryption, letting law enforcement officials know once again that it does not plan to budge from its position.

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