There are people siding with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in its current court battle with Apple. These misguided souls are claiming, amongst other nonsensical things, that the FBI only wants a single iPhone unlocked. They believe that it’s somehow OK for Apple to open Pandora’s box by releasing a signed firmware with a backdoor in it so long as it’s only for unlocking a single iPhone. Unfortunately, as those of us siding with Apple have been pointing out, this case isn’t about a single iPhone. The FBI wants a court precedence so it can coerce Apple into unlocking other iPhones:
In addition to the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, the US government is pursuing court orders to force Apple to help bypass the security passcodes of “about a dozen” other iPhones, the Wall Street Journal reports. The other cases don’t involve terror charges, the Journal’s sources say, but prosecutors involved have also sought to use the same 220-year-old law — the All Writs Act of 1789 — to access the phones in question.
By setting a precedence in the San Bernardino case the FBI would have grounds to coerce Apple, and other device manufacturers, to unlock other devices. We know the FBI already has a dozen or so phones in the pipeline and it will certainly have more in the coming years.
Besides the precedence there is also the problem of the firmware itself. If Apple creates a signed firmware that disables iOS security features and automates brute forcing passwords it could be installed on other iPhones (at least other iPhone 5Cs but possibly other iPhone). With this firmware in hand the FBI wouldn’t even need to coerce Apple into helping each time, the agency could simply install the firmware on any compatible devices itself. This is why Apple believes creating such a firmware is too dangerous.
You can never believe the government when it claims to be taking an exceptional measure just once. Those exceptional measures always become standard practice.