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Apple rejects San Bernardino shooter iPhone hacking order, says FBI seeks 'dangerous' iPhone 'backdoor'

On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered Apple to help the FBI break into an iPhone owned by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, giving Apple five days to object. It took Apple only a few hours to say no.

"We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a letter to customers on the Apple website. But while "up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them," the U.S. government has now "asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone."

Cook continued:

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone's physical possession....

We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them. Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority. [Apple]

Cook wrote that the FBI's demand should spark a "public discussion." You can read his conversation-starter at Apple's site.