San Bernardino Victims Are Taking Legal Action Against Apple In iPhone Case

by Sean Levinson
Getty Images

Several victims of the San Bernardino attack will take legal action against Apple's resistance to unlock one of the shooters' iPhones.

Last week, Apple was issued a federal court order to create software that can unlock encrypted data on the iPhone 5c of Syed Farook, one of two shooters who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California on December 2.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, however, soon declared he opposed the order because such software, essentially a "master key" to all personal data, could have dangerous implications if it fell into the wrong hands.

According to Reuters, a lawyer representing some of the 22 wounded victims of the San Bernardino attack said these individuals will file a legal brief in support of the court order.

The lawyer, former federal judge Stephen Larson, said the victims believe the encrypted data could reveal why they were targeted and how the attack was coordinated.

Investigators previously suggested the iPhone contains crucial information because Farook seemed to have disabled his iCloud data feature to hide recent iPhone activity.

Larson plans on filing the legal brief at some point early in March.

On Monday, Apple published a Q&A on its website to clarify its opposition to the court order.

The desired software would allow an unlimited amount of passwords to be entered in order to access the data, overriding the current feature denying access after a certain number of attempts.

With the help of a modern computer that can guess millions of password combinations at super speeds, virtually every iPhone could be made vulnerable.

Even though the government promised to use the technology just this once, the Apple Q&A page said the software would "be relentlessly attacked by hackers and cybercriminals."

The page also pointed out another reason there is a high probability of the software being abused.

The page added,

Law enforcement agents around the country have already said they have hundreds of iPhones they want Apple to unlock if the FBI wins this case.

FBI Director James Comey said Apple is overreacting, NBC News reports.

In a statement released on Sunday, Comey said the FBI owes the attack victims the most thorough investigation possible.

Comey explained,

I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending, but instead use that breath to talk to each other. We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist's passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly.

Apple continues to urge the government to withdraw the court order.

Citations: San Bernardino victims to oppose Apple on iPhone encryption (Reuters), FBI Fires Back at Apple: 'We Don't Want To Break Anyone's Encryption' (NBC News), Answers to your questions about Apple and security (Apple)