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Apple Fires Back at FBI and Attorney General William Barr Regarding Florida Shooter’s iPhone

Earlier this year, the United States FBI and Attorney General William Barr called on Apple to unlock two iPhones owned by shooter Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani who committed an act of terrorism by staging a mass shooting at a naval air station in Pensacola, Florida. Apple has continued to reiterate its claim that such a “backdoor” does not exist and that creating one could jeopardize the security of its customers, leave Apple devices vulnerable to malicious attacks, and weaken national security as a whole.

According to FBI director Christopher Hay, the FBI has confirmed today that it was able to access the shooter’s devices despite receiving “effectively no help” from Apple with Attorney General William Barr stating further that Apple’s refusal to assist investigators is a “great disappointment”. Barr’s full statement: 

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“Apple has made a business and marketing decision to design its phones in a way that only the user can unlock the contents no matter what the circumstances. In cases like this, where the user is a terrorist, or in other cases where the user is a violent criminal, a human trafficker, a child predator, Apple’s decision has dangerous consequences for the public safety and the national security and is in my judgment unacceptable.”

Mark Gurman of Bloomberg shared a statement that was issued from Apple in response to the comments of Wray and Barr which detailed the steps that Apple took to assist the FBI within hours of the attack which included providing Apple ID account information, iCloud backups, and transactional information for multiple accounts belonging to the shooter. 

“The terrorist attack on members of the US armed services at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida was a devastating and heinous act. Apple responded to the FBI’s first requests for information just hours after the attack on December 6, 2019 and continued to support law enforcement during their investigation. We provided every piece of information available to us, including ‌iCloud‌ backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts, and we let continuous and ongoing technical and investigative support to FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola, and New York over the months since.”

Apple then went on to say that the comments made by Barr and Wray in regards to Apple’s lack of help are nothing more than an “excuse to weaken encryption”.  

“On this and many thousands of other cases, we continue to work around-the-clock with the FBI and other investigators who keep Americans safe and bring criminals to justice. As a proud American company, we consider supporting law enforcement’s important work our responsibility. The false claims made about our company are an excuse to weaken encryption and other security measures that protect millions of users and our national security.

It is because we take our responsibility to national security so seriously that we do not believe in the creation of a backdoor — one which will make every device vulnerable to bad actors who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. There is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys, and the American people do not have to choose between weakening encryption and effective investigations.

Customers count on Apple to keep their information secure and one of the ways in which we do so is by using strong encryption across our devices and servers. We sell the same iPhone everywhere, we don’t store customers’ passcodes and we don’t have the capacity to unlock passcode-protected devices. In data centers, we deploy strong hardware and software security protections to keep information safe and to ensure there are no backdoors into our systems. All of these practices apply equally to our operations in every country in the world.”

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