Apple's Tim Cook was recently interviewed by ABC in reference to the developing battle between Apple and the FBI. For reference in case you missed earlier reports, the FBI is trying to secure a high level court order forcing Apple to purposefully create new software that would create a back door to the iPhone used by the shooters in the San Bernardino shooting.
On the surface, this seems like a reasonable request, and in fact, Apple has been cooperating with the FBI on this case in all other aspects. Apple has given the FBI access to the shooter's iCloud and any other Apple server based information. The reason why Apple is taking a hard-line stance on the hacking of the iPhone is far more complex than most people realize.
The way iOS security is currently designed, Apple does not even have the ability to get backdoor access to the phone once it has reached full lockdown mode. For Apple to gain this type of access their software engineers would literally have to create new software which would become a "Master Key" to unlock ALL iOS devices. In order to protect the integrity of their security on iOS, Apple has chosen to never do that.
Cook had this to say in the interview with ABC on this topic, "The only way to get information -- at least currently, the only way we know -- would be to write a piece of software that we view as sort of the software equivalent of cancer. We think it's bad news to write. We would never write it. We have never written it. And that is what is at stake here." He added, "If a court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they could ask us to write. I don't know where this stops. But I do know this is not what should be happening in this country."
Cook also admitted that opposing the government's stance on this issue "doesn't feel right," and that it is a "very uncomfortable position." He goes on to express sympathy for the families of the victims of the San Bernardino shooting. He explains that he wishes that the FBI had contacted Apple before they (the FBI) changed the Apple ID password.
For further clarification, once the FBI had the shooter's iPhone they tried to access it but failed, which caused the phone to automatically create a new Apple ID password. Now the phone is basically locked down, and the only way to change it would be to erase everything on it. The FBI is using the high profile nature of this case to compel Apple into creating unlocking software that would invalidate all of the security measures they have created up to now.
In the ABC interview, Cook makes it clear this case is a much larger issue. It is about protecting the rights of American citizens through due process. He said, "What we do know is we passed all of the information that we have on the phone and to get additional information on it or at least what the FBI would like us to do now would expose hundreds of millions of people to issues."
Cook further explained, "No one would want a master key built that would turn hundreds of millions of locks. Even if that key were in the possession of the person that you trust the most, that key could be stolen. That is what this is about.” He then elaborated, "This case is not about one phone, this case is about the future. What is at stake here is ‘can the government compel Apple to write software that we believe would make hundreds of millions of customers vulnerable around the world, including the U.S.?’"
Apple's perspective is that according to current Federal law, there is no precedent or authority by which the FBI or the courts can compel a company to infringe upon the rights of American citizens. Cook's final argument is summed up, "But I do know this is not what should be happening in this country. This is not what should be happening in America. If there should be a law that compels us to do it, it should be passed out in the open, and the people of America should get a voice in that. The right place for that debate to occur is in Congress.”