Trump said the US is "helping Apple all the time," but Apple refuses to "unlock" smartphones used by "killers, drug dealers, and other violent criminal elements."
The swear words follow a request from Attorney General William Barr, who asked Apple to unlock the iPhone 5 and iPhone 7 used by Alshamrani. Barr complained that Apple had "no substantial support" and said it was crucial "that the public have access to digital evidence."
We help Apple with TRADE and so many other problems all the time, and yet they refuse to unlock phones that are used by killers, drug dealers, and other violent criminal elements. You must step on the plate and help our great country NOW! MAKE AMERICA BIG AGAIN.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2020
Apple previously announced that it had provided the FBI with all information (such as iCloud backups) earlier this month after the FBI asked for help to get the gunman's data. However, the police officers are not satisfied with the iCloud data and would like Apple to offer a way to unlock the shooter's iPhones, which is not possible without a back door into the software.
Upon Barr's request, Apple made another statement, further details on the data provided, and reiterated that there was "no back door just for the good guys". Apple's full response to Barr, which ultimately triggered Trump's tweet, is below:
We were devastated when we heard of the tragic terrorist attack on U.S. forces on December 6th at Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida learned. We have the greatest respect for law enforcement agencies and work regularly with the police across the country to investigate. When law enforcement requests our support, our teams work 24/7 to provide them with the information we have.
We reject the characterization that Apple did not provide substantial support in the Pensacola investigation. Our responses to their numerous requests since the attack were timely, thorough, and ongoing.
Within hours of the FBI's first request on December 6, we provided a lot of information related to the investigation. From December 7th to 14th, we received six more legal requests and then provided information, including "iCloud" backups, account information, and transaction data for multiple accounts.
We responded to every request promptly, often within hours, and shared information with the FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola, and New York. The queries resulted in many gigabytes of information that we passed on to the investigators. In any case, we replied with all the information we had.
The FBI didn't tell us until January 6th that they needed additional help – a month after the attack. Only then did we learn of the existence of a second "iPhone" related to the investigation and the inability of the FBI to access one of the "iPhone". It was only on January 8th that we received a subpoena for information about the second "iPhone", which we replied to within a few hours. Getting in touch early is crucial to access information and find additional options.
We continue to work with the FBI and our engineering teams recently had a call to provide additional technical help. Apple has great respect for the Bureau's work and we will work tirelessly to investigate this tragic attack on our country.
We always said that there was no back door for the good guys only. Back doors can also be exploited by people who endanger our national security and the data security of our customers. Law enforcement agencies now have access to more data than ever in history, so Americans don't have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations. We believe that encryption is critical to protecting our country and our users' data.
The current dispute between Apple and the U.S. government reflects a similar incident in 2016. Apple has been instructed by a federal judge to unlock San Bernardino's iPhone Sagittarius Syed Farook. Apple fought violently against the order, which required access to iPhones through back doors, and said that a security weakening "made no sense" and would create "new and dangerous vulnerabilities".
Apple ultimately won the dispute and the government could find another way to access Farook's iPhone, which may also be an option in the current situation. Bloomberg spoke to several security researchers this afternoon, including Will Strafach, who said the government could "absolutely" access Alshamrani’s iPhone 5 and iPhone 7 using the technology offered by Cellebrite and other iPhone cracking companies ,
As in 2016, Apple should not give in to government demands as this would jeopardize the security of all iPhones. A new report from The New York Times suggests that Apple is privately preparing for a lawsuit while trying to publicize the situation.
Apple executives are said to be surprised by the "rapid escalation" of the case, and some of the people working on the problem are frustrated that the Department of Justice has not spent enough time getting into the iPhones with third-party tools. "Apple CEO Tim Cook has put together a team to settle the dispute, and the group hopes to steer the situation toward an external solution that" doesn't harm the company's own security. "
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