Should it succeed, it could create new technical challenges for the U.S. government.
As it continues to fight the FBI on its request for help to hack into an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, Apple is reportedly working on measures to make such a request more difficult to fulfill in the future.
The tech giant is said to be working on new security measures that would make it impossible for the government to hack into a locked iPhone using the methods currently at the center of Apple’s AAPL battle with the FBI, according to a report from the New York Times, citing anonymous sources. If the company succeeds, that will make it significantly more difficult for the FBI or anyone else to break into an iPhone, likely setting off more legal and security battles in the future, the report notes.
Last week, a court order from a federal judge in California requested that Apple help the FBI unlock the phone as it’s password protected. Apple CEO Tim Cook quickly responded with a public stand against the order, citing customer privacy concerns as it would require the company to build firmware to hack its own smartphones—essentially creating a “back door” that could be exploited by the government of bad actors in the future. Cook has voiced strong anti-back door sentiments in the past as well.
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The Justice Department has since called Apple’s reaction a “marketing strategy” rather than a real concern over privacy.
But now it appears that the only way out of this potential cycle would be for the U.S. Congress to step in and clarify laws, as the Times notes. Current legislation requires phone carriers to make their data accessible, but companies like Apple aren’t included and they’ve strongly resisted such laws, especially in light of the revelations of the National Security Agency’s secret data collection programs in 2013.