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The FBI’s war with Apple is about to go horribly wrong

San Bernardino iPhone

Few times in the recent past has an issue like this had such compelling arguments on both sides of the fence.

It all started when the FBI recovered an iPhone that had belonged to one of two terrorists who carried out the horrific 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California, which left 14 dead and another 24 injured. The death toll rose to 16 when the perpetrators were later killed in a gunfight with police.

The FBI has a strong argument: if Apple helps it unlock the iPhone that was recovered, the information obtained could potentially help authorities prevent future attacks. Meanwhile, Apple is afraid that aiding in this case will set a dangerous precedent. But whichever side prevails, it looks like things are about to go horribly wrong for the FBI.

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Following the FBI’s initial request, a court order was granted that demanded Apple help the government agency break into the PIN-protected iPhone that was recovered from one of the two San Bernardino attackers. Apple immediately refused, and a very public battle has commenced.

Tech companies are siding with Apple; providing the FBI with the tools the agency has requested would completely negate the protections Apple has in place in iOS. Meanwhile, the public is divided on the issue, though it seems to be siding with the FBI in this case. After all, the mere mention of “terrorism” shifts the argument to an entirely different place.

Further complicating matters is the fact that there are ways Apple could provide the FBI with access to the shooter’s phone without compromising iPhone security at all. A legendary iPhone hacker explained exclusively to BGR how this might work.

But as Reuters reported on Wednesday, the FBI will likely be the loser in this war regardless of whether or not Apple is ultimately forced to comply.

“A success for the government in this case may further spur Apple and others to develop devices that the makers aren’t privileged to crack,” Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society cofounder Jonathan Zittrain told the news agency. Reuters also spoke with other tech executives who stressed the security of their products and said they would now work to strengthen security even more.

“Our goal is to achieve a ‘zero-knowledge’ state where our customers have total control over their data,” Box security head Joel De la Garza said.

Meanwhile, an anonymous Apple executive also confirmed to Reuters that the company may look to make its products even more secure moving forward.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.