DOJ files a motion to compel Apple to help FBI unlock terrorist's iPhone

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REUTERS/Mike Segar

The saga between Apple and the FBI over hacking into an iPhone 5c owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters doesn't seem likely to end anytime soon. Earlier this week, you might recall that a judge ordered Apple to help the FBI access the aforementioned iPhone 5c. Following that, it didn't even take Tim Cook 12 hours to pen a letter articulating why Apple would not help the FBI in this regard.

"The FBI may use different words to describe this tool," Tim Cook explained in his letter, "but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control."

Now comes word that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has entered the fray. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the DOJ on Friday filed a motion seeking to compel Apple's compliance with the court order. Not only that, but the DOJ went so far as to categorize Apple's refusal to comply as nothing more than a marketing ploy while also claiming that Apple has exaggerated the difficulty involved in doing what the FBI demands.

As for the impetus behind the DOJ's involvement, the filing notes that because the ongoing investigation into the San Bernardino shooting is urgent, a quick resolution is necessary.

“Rather than assist the effort to fully investigate a deadly terrorist attack by obeying this court’s order,” prosecutors wrote, “Apple has responded by publicly repudiating that order.”

“At no point has Apple ever said that it does not have the technical ability to comply with the order or that the order asks Apple to undertake an unreasonably challenging software development task,” prosecutors wrote. “On this point, Apple’s silence speaks volumes.”

As a quick refresher, the FBI doesn't want Apple to break into the iPhone 5c in question, but rather to come up with a piece of software that would bypass the iPhone's built-in security mechanism which is designed to wipe a phone's data once 10 invalid passcode entries are attempted.

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