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Actually they aren't asking Apple to unlock one person's phone. They are asking Apple to create software that can unlock that iPhone, which could then obviously be used to open any other iPhone or maybe any iDevice.
If the government said they wanted to create a strain of Super Ebola transmittable through the air so they can study it. You know, just in case it naturally mutates that way we can be prepared. Don't worry we will keep it safe in just one lab in San Bernadino where only authorized scientists will have access. Would you be OK with that?
There may be nothing useful in the phone at all.
Everything that can fall into the wrong hands will fall into the wrong hands. Once that software is created, it will leak. Then every lost iPhone means that person loses every dime in their bank accounts. If a thief gets your phone they can log into your bank app and transfer funds. Even if you don't have the password saved, they can reset your password because your e-mail password is auto-saved. Heck it could even mean a huge spike in iPhone theft once the thieves have the tools to make so much more money from each stolen phone.
Everyone who really thinks Apple should provide the FBI with tools to access or unlock phones, should immediately turn off all locking and privacy features on their phones right now and leave them off forever. If you're not willing to do that, then you really don't want Apple to provide unlock tools to anybody, you're just not thinking things all the way through.
Tools means an exploit must be present. They also set a precedent, with the expectation that those tools will continue to work, which means that the exploit must become a maintained feature of the product. What happens what that exploit is discovered by the bad guys? Will the FBI take responsibility and give up their tools so Apple can close the hole? Never.
We can program with only 1's, but if all you've got are zeros, you've got nothing.
A quick look through the many replies below seems to indicate most people have an immediate feeling that we want to be protected from terrorists so it is petty of Apple to "refuse to unlock this one phone" simply because they believe in privacy rights. I would suggest you know what is actually being required of Apple:
The government has invoked a centuries old writ requiring the general cooperation of third parties in excecuting writs or orders of the court/government. It has invoked that general writ in this case to insist that Apple engineers write a new operating system for the iPhone that will remove the multiple password submit protection (i.e., remove the increasing delay of response and ultimate locking of the device on repeated password errors) so the government can try brute force cracking the password for the terrorist's phone (by running millions of attempts at the password in automatically until one works).
To paraphrase a federal judge who refused to allow the use of th All Writs Act in that way in 2005, the government need only run this Hail Mary play if its arguments under the relevant laws fail to allow it to do what it wants to do (US Magistrate Judge Orenstein).
This controversy will surely take years to resolve, since it will likely proceed to the US Supreme Court (which may not be fully staffed since the Congress apparently views the President's power to appoint justices as optional and politically inconvenient).
Aside from the implications of demanding a business abandon a marketing feature or do slave labor for the government (and these do involve constitutional questions re 2nd and 5th amendments among other issues), you really need to slow down on this reaction that we want to be protected and what does it matter if the government can look at any and all of my communications (which they do anyway for the most part). There is a difference from being protected by law and being protected by the good will of a particular official of the government.
We've come a long way from Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death," the attitude of those who risked their lives that we might have a country like America. Now it seems to be, "to hell with liberty---I want to live at any cost." If you look at history you will see populations that made that decision always suffered severe consequences.
I'm not a hardware expert by any means but here's something I've been thinking of and wondering if this could be done:
1) dismantle the phone and connect the iPhone's storage chip(s) to an interface that can read the raw data of the chip(s) but would not be able to decrypt the data.
2) copy the encrypted contents of the iPhone's storage to another system and back it up as well.
3) hook up an iPhone emulator to the first backup and try entering unlock codes sequentially until the right code is hit.
4) if the emulator zaps the data then just restore from the backup and keep trying until the unlock code is found, then proceed to read the data.
I'm sure there has to be a reason why no one else has suggested doing this before like you can't dismantle the iPhone without zapping everything in the phone.
Would it change your mind if they had the password from the backups of the device, but someone muffed it up and changed the password in the cloud?
The reason why they don't have data on this phone - is that they didn't follow their own process.
My understanding is that there is more to this than just Apple being difficult.
Personally, I'm glad Apple has taken the stance they have. Remember Blackberry, around about the time they gave into Pakistan about data interception, their customers began to leave them in droves. Co-incidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
Many government departments rely on the iphone security. How many would remain customers if it wasn't there.
The media often compare sizes and weights to things people are already familiar with: "an area of four football fields", "as high as four elephants", "the size of Wales", "the weight of four bags of sugar".
This is comparing the weight of the whole planet Earth to pi times a thousandth of the weight of Jupiter.
It's probably accurate (Randall normally checks his facts very carefully) but it's as useless in practice as "add a millionth the weight of a sperm whale of saffron" would be in a recipe!
Bad command or file name. Bad, bad command! Sit! Stay! Staaaay...
This American guy returns from a round trip of Great Britain with a badly bruised eye, and tries to explain it to his buddies:
I went to this pub, and tried to approach a couple girls
- Hi! Are you chicks from this part of England?
They snared back at me:
- That'll be Wales, you silly fool!
So I tried again:
- OK, I'm sorry about that. So, are you whales from this part of England?
The next thing I remember is waking up at the local hospital.
Did you ever see history portrayed as an old man with a wise brow and pulseless heart, waging all things in the balance of reason?
Is not rather the genius of history like an eternal, imploring maiden, full of fire, with a burning heart and flaming soul, humanly warm and humanly beautiful?
Training a telescope on one’s own belly button will only reveal lint. You like that? You go right on staring at it. I prefer looking at galaxies.
-- Sarah Hoyt
That reminds me on the stupid look on someone's face when I said "kiloEuro".
Really? You get a stupid look?
I am so accustomed to reading about kilodollars (K$), megadollars (M$), kilokroner (KNOK) and megakroner (MNOK - that is for NOrwegian Kroner) that kiloEuro and megaEuro sounds perfectly natural to me.
If you start taking about dekadollars or hektokroner, you might confuse me for a few seconds, though. I know of no application are were the deka- prefix is used regularly. Hekto- has survived in a few professions, e.g. fishermen may talk about hectoliters of fish. In farming and surveying there is a unit of area, 10 by 10 meters, called an are. So ten ares are a deca-are and 100 ares are a hecto-are - but those are contracted to decare and hectare.
On the other side of 1: If you want to confuse a stereo freak or signal processing man, you should consistently use Bel as a unit. A S/N of six Bel is quite reasonable for everyday use, even though modern sound technology can easily provide eight to ten Bel. Lots of engineers may know, at an "intellectual" level, that a dB is a tenth of a Bel, but in everyday work they never think of it; dB is the basic unit.